Q&A: Former fraudster Frank Abagnale offers IT security advice
Nobody cares about ethics, says the Catch Me If You Can man
Computerworld - GRAPEVINE, Texas -- At Computerworld's Storage Networking World conference here yesterday, Frank Abagnale gave a keynote presentation on his life as an imposter and fraudster, a story that was told in the book and subsequent Steven Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can. Prior to his presentation, Abagnale -- now a lecturer and consultant who works extensively with the FBI and other clients -- spoke with Computerworld about ethics, computer crime and security risks faced by IT professionals.
Excerpts from that interview follow:
Suppose you'd been born in 1990. How much of what you got away with 40 years ago do you think you'd be able to get away with as a 17-year-old today? It would be 4,000 times easier to do today, what I did 40 years ago, and I probably wouldn't go to prison for it. Technology breeds crime -- it always has, it always will. When I forged checks 40 years ago, it required a $1 million printing press that required three journeymen printers to operate. I had to build scaffolding on the side of it so I could operate it by myself. There were color separations, negatives, plates, typesetting chemicals.
Today, I sit down at a laptop, pick any company I want, go to their Web site, capture their logo, like American Airlines. I put it up on a check with a 747 in the background taking off. Fifteen minutes later, I have the most beautiful American Airlines check you've ever seen -- probably 10 times better than the check American Airlines uses.
Forty years ago, I wouldn't know who signs American's checks; I wouldn't know where American Airlines keeps its accounts payable account. Today, I would just call their accounts receivable, ask them for their wiring instructions. They'd tell me where they bank, on what street in what city, what their account number is. I call back and ask for a copy of their annual report, and on page three will be the signature of their chairman of the board, the CEO, the CFO, the treasurer. I scan it onto glossy white paper, with camera-ready art -- and I have the check. A world of too much information and the technology make it very easy to do today what I did 40 years ago.
Do you think there's much similarity between what drove you and whatever it is that drives a 17-year-old hacker today? No, mine was strictly a matter of survival. I was a kid who ran away from home at 16 and ended up in New York. A lot of people back then got into Haight-Ashbury, the hippie scene, the drug scene. No one was going to hire a 16-year-old, so I started out by lying about my age in order to secure a job. One thing led to another and it became more of a case of people were after me, so I had to stay a step ahead of them. I don't think I was out to set any goals or to make X amount of money. I was very creative, so it became more of a game as time went on.
- Top 10 Reasons to Strengthen Information Security with Desktop Virtualization Regain control and reduce risk without sacrificing business productivity and growth
- Preventing Sophisticated Attacks: Anti-Evasion & Advanced Evasion Techniques McAfee Next Generation Firewall applies sophisticated analysis techniques specifically to detect advanced evasion techniques (AET).
- The Security Industry's Dirty Little Secret The debate over advanced evasion techniques (AETs) This report summarizes the findings of a McAfee commissioned research group to determine the level of understanding IT security professionals have about AETs...
- Demand More, Get the Most from the Move to a Next-Generation Firewall Beyond the basics in a next generation firewall, to protect your investment you should demand other valuable features: intrusion prevention, contextual rules, advanced...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!