To Report or Not to Report, A Computer Crimes Victim’s Dilemma.

Miami Florida is fortunate to have some of the most sophisticated computer crimes lawyers and law enforcement personnel in the country. The US Attorney, State Prosecutor, FBI, Secret Service, Miami-Dade Police Department and City of Miami Police Department all have specialized units and personal dedicated to investigating and prosecuting Digital Crimes. So why is it that so many of South Florida Crimes seem to be limited to solicitation and e-bay fraud instead of intrusion, hacking, theft of service or the spreading of malicious code.

The answer is simple: corporate victims of computer criminals are often concerned with the PR ramifications of letting the public know about an investigation. I say an investigation not a prosecution. A prosecution shows the corporate victim after they catch the intruder taking affirmative steps to punish the person who dared test their security. An investigation on the other hand is much more nebulous.

During an investigation, no one knows who the perpetrator was. More questions than answers are presented. Not only is the company’s security called into question: there is tremendous speculation as to who the intruder is and how they gained access. Were they an employee? Were they a competitor? Is this the first in a series of attacks? Most corporate victims do not want the distraction of having to answer these questions, let alone deal with the fear the unknown answers can cause among their clients and employees.

For this reason it is critical to have an understanding with the investigating agency that the existence of the investigation and the name of the victim will be kept secret until an arrest is made. The members of the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force have repeatedly professed their commitment to maintaining media silence during the investigation of computer crimes. This makes good public relations sense and follows sound investigative policies.

It is critical that the victim, either directly or thorough their attorney, communicate that desire, not only to the investigating officer, but to the individuals responsible for speaking to the media. In this way, the corporation can control what kind of press release is made and when. By doing so, they can announce that they have captured the perpetrator and make the release a celebration of their responsiveness rather than a roast of their security.