U.S. record on cybercrime weak, lacks vodka

Moscow restaurant.jpgMy post on real evil by a Russian mob got me called a CIA propagandist, which is kind of a stretch, given my previous reporting and attempted reporting on U.S. intelligence. Still, that gives me an opportunity to fault the spotty efforts by my home country to put a significant brake on cybercrime, which in my view is one of the gravest threats we're facing.

Among the greatest U.S. government screw-ups are the failures to invest sufficiently in developing a more secure Internet protocol, to call out other governments who are harboring the worst of the worst, and to warn the public that nothing they do online is secure. I could go on at length, but I have elsewhere.

Instead, let's talk about the arrogance of U.S. law enforcement abroad and about Viggo Mortensen naked. In the movie "Eastern Promises," which features Viggo Mortensen nude [Hey, when your book comes out in paperback, I'll be happy to discuss SEO ethics], there's a bit after he has been initiated into the most central Russian gang with a tattoo. "I am through the door," he tells an associate.

Ordinary business in Russia doesn't require that kind of rite. What it does require is prodigious vodka-drinking. There's an historic reason for this: In the old days, the man in your circle who wasn't drinking was probably an informant. U.K. detective Andy Crocker, one of the two main heroes in Fatal System Error, learned that lesson during the unprecedented three years he spent chasing, arresting and convicting three members of a Russian cyber gang. He bonded with an MVD colonel who would be his key partner after passing out in the colonel's office during an afternoon celebration, discovering later that the colonel's wife had passed out on top of him. When I was reporting in Moscow with Crocker and my other big hero, California security whiz Barrett Lyon [that's us in the picture], I too had to drink beyond reason to earn the trust of Russian officers. Only then was I through the door.

While there, I also went to interview the FBI's legal attache, the man the U.S. goes through when it wants help from the MVD. Nice guy, hardworking guy, sincere guy. But for religious reasons, he doesn't drink a drop. All power to him and his god, but it seems to me the FBI also needs good men in places like Saudi Arabia, where abstinence doesn't hurt the cause.

Given my work on this stuff over the years, I can give a more sophisticated analysis of why U.S. law enforcement leadership hasn't handled cybercrime abroad right, despite talented agents. But the images I see are my vodka shots with Andy and the MVD and my chat with the ramrod-straight but misplaced man from the FBI.