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Alaska attorney speaks to collaborative effort to bring down cybercrime websites

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 4:18 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - An Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska is speaking out on the collaborative effort between prosecution and law enforcement in the investigations of cybercrime services.

According to Adam Alexander, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Alaska and co-prosecutor for the case of Matthew Gatrel who operated cybercrime service websites, Gatrel’s case was prosecuted as a joint operation in both Alaska and California.

“Mr. Gatrel’s’ case was part of a joint operation that was conducted between the District of Alaska, the Central District of California out of Los Angeles, and in partnership with other districts and law enforcement agencies across the country, including international law enforcement partners as well,” Alexander explained. “It was intended to disrupt a type of criminal cybercrime service known as booter service, which is basically a website that people would use, and pay for the ability to attack other individuals online.”

This case was part of a investigation spanning several years focused on the take down of websites that perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks as a service.

“Mr. Gatrel was convicted by a jury a couple of weeks ago in the Central District of California,” Alexander elaborated. “But this investigation actually began as early as 2015, 2016, with the FBI in partnership with private industry, looking at these types of criminal service providers and trying to come up with a plan to not just arrest and investigate one individual at a time, but to try to disrupt the whole criminal service itself. So that resulted in, ultimately, the operation in 2018 that resulted in the seizure of a number of websites, and the prosecution of a number of individuals including Mr. Gatrel.”

And according to Alexander, as cybercrimes become more complicated and organized, collaboration remains a valuable tool for investigators. “I think everyone is familiar at this point with the fact that we’re facing a lot of sophisticated cybercrime threats here in Alaska and across the country. We’re seeing a proliferation of individuals who are committing cybercrimes in a number of different ways.”

Alexander continued, “We’re seeing ransomware and business email compromised, we’re seeing attacks on state infrastructure, we’re seeing a lot of activity - and a lot of it is complex and time-intensive to investigate. The best investigations, the most successful investigations and prosecutions are generally the product of partnerships between law enforcement agencies, and different districts, and different prosecutors - and that’s what we saw here.”

Collaboration across states and international law enforcements have been key in many successful investigations and prosecutions according to Alexander.

“You have to try and keep up,” Alexander commented. “As you see a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated cybercrime threats, law enforcement has to adapt. The most successful investigations and prosecutions are ones where you’ve got good partnerships, and we see that too, as well, in different types of cases. That’s true basically in every type of case. We work child exploitation investigations here in Alaska that are the product of a partnership between state and local law enforcement, federal law enforcement agencies, state prosecutors, federal prosecutors, everybody working together to try and tackle a specific threat - and that same model is what we used here in this case as well.”

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