But make no mistake about it. The 650 or so folks in Monterey for the High-Tech Crime Investigation Association are in complete agreement that the situation is getting worse. For every step forward the good guys take by taking advantage of new technologies, better laws, and evolving investigation techniques, the bad guys take several steps by expanding their global crime networks, monitoring IT system vulnerabilities more closely, and finding additional motivation in the growing economy resulting from fraud and identity theft.
As I walked around the conference, sitting in on classes in which instructors were all but pleading with conference attendees to get their organizations to treat the threat of cybercrime very seriously, it was clear to me there's a sense of urgency. When Louis Reigel, the assistant director of the FBI's cyber division and a self-described optimist, tells me that he doesn't see light at the end of the tunnel, I know it's time to be afraid. Then, when Christopher Painter, one of the top cybercrime experts at the U.S. Department of Justice, actually SAYS it's time to be afraid (as he said to me), perhaps it's time to be VERY afraid.
Whether you're an IT exec, an unsuspecting consumer, or a parent who frets about what your kids are doing online, know this: The high-tech threats you face are growing, not shrinking. Sadly, one here is expecting the battle to swing the other direction any time soon. After all, there's only so much a Knuckles Bar full of cybersleuths can do.