Cybercrime becomes global threat costing hundreds of billions

The Justice Department calls cybercrime one of the greatest threats to our country. Just as the FBI began looking into one of the biggest cyberthefts yet -- by a Russian crime ring -- we learned today of another break in -- the target this time, a company that does background checks for federal employees and contractors Jeff Pegues in Washington reports.

Security analysts are concerned the Russian crime ring behind the theft could ultimately sell the stolen personal data, exposing bank accounts and leading to identity theft.

A report by the private firm Hold Security says that a dozen Russian hackers broke into at least 420,000 websites and stole more than one billion usernames, passwords and e-mail addresses. Hold says some of the information was stolen from Fortune 500 companies.

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"What it tells me is that the hackers found a vulnerability in a program, a database program, that all of these websites used," said Jim Lewis, who studies cybercrime and has worked with the military, government and private industry. "Then they crawled around on the Internet looking for places using that database software, found them and took everything out."

Cybercrime is a growing threat to the global economy. A June report pegs its cost at more than $400 billion a year.

At a California command center for the security firm Mandiant, technicians monitor worldwide Internet activity, looking for anything signalling a cyberattack. Business networks face an almost daily barrage from hackers.

Even savvy web users like Lewis admit it is extremely difficult for businesses and individuals to protect themselves.

"I do online banking," he said. "But when you do it, you have to realize maybe some guy named Igor is also watching what I am up to and that is risk we all have to take.

Lewis say you should change your passwords every month, but even doing that does not guarantee fraud protection. Government investigators have now spoken to hold security Government investigators have now spoken to Hold Security and may launch their own investigation.