Secret Service leading task force aimed at keeping Colorado businesses safe from cybercrime

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DENVER — The United States Secret Service and Colorado’s Electronic Crimes Task Force will meet in Denver Friday in an effort to prevent cybercrime.

The Secret Service leads the task force that’s made up of about 200 members, including state and local law enforcement, private companies and universities. In Colorado, those companies include VMware and Carbon Black. Its academic partner is the University of Denver.

“Cybersecurity is not a ‘me’ problem. It’s not a ‘you’ problem. It’s not a ‘they’ problem. It’s an ‘us’ problem,” said Ike Barnes, the assistant to the special agent in charge of the task force.

In the last decade, the Secret Service has trained about 90 Colorado law enforcement officers to be cybercrime experts. It’s also conducted more than 2,800 forensic examinations of phones, computers, clouds and more.

“We’re happy to respond and keep that information proprietary,” Barnes said. “We’re not there to air their dirty laundry, if you will. We’re there to help identify the bad guy…and put bad guys in jail.”

The Colorado task force is one of just 40 in the world and it stays busy.

Cybercrime cost the global economy as much as $600 billion in 2017, according to McAfee. Some estimates have that number in the trillions for 2021.

Part of that includes the growing crime of ransomware.

“One of the interesting things has been the bad guy has seen success in receiving payouts in these ransomware (attacks) and that, to a degree, has emboldened some of their activities,” Barnes said. “As a member of the government, we would recommend no one pay the ransom because this money is being used for other elicit activities.”

Regis University suffered a ransomware attack last year and made an undisclosed payment. The Secret Service was involved in the investigation peripherally, Barnes said.

One goal of the task force is to prevent cybercrimes before they happen.

A piece of advice from Barnes: do not click on random links from strange emails. That may be all it takes to get people and businesses hacked.

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