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Local Nonprofit Fights Cyber Crime Worldwide

The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, is strengthening its international partnerships to combat global cyber crime, which is now at an all time high.

NCFTA President and CEO Ronald Plesco, Jr. said the group exists to do three things: identify cyber crimes, share intelligence between corporations and law enforcement, and neutralize cyber threats. NCFTA was established in 1997 and has since amassed 1,200 partners in public and private sectors.

Over lunch at Heinz Field the group hosted a forum to discuss how cyber crime affects citizens and how partnerships can help make it easier to catch criminals more quickly.

"The nature of digital organized crime groups is that they are agile, entrepreneurial, global, and in recent years, they have grown exponentially," said Sir Ian Andrews, Chair of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which recently placed a full-time officer in Pittsburgh to work with the NCFTA. "What is special about this place is that it brings together not just law enforcement but a whole range of experts from the private sector, from industry, from academia." These organizations can share information with law enforcement and design systems in the future that prevent crimes from being committed, he said.

Global cyber crime costs businesses approximately $1 trillion annually, said Philip Barton, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Washington. This estimate first appeared in a 2009 study by computer antivirus maker McAfee and security firm SAIC. Analysts now say the number is likely higher with many crimes going unreported.

Governor Tom Corbett spoke in support of the partnership with agencies in the United Kingdom, which he said is Pennsylvania's 7th largest export partner. "If cyber security is to mean anything, it must be, it has to be, an international effort," he said.

Corbett said the string of emailed bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh was a humbling lesson about the challenges of the information age. University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who is also an Honorary British Consul, attended the forum and said, "To have a partnership like this coming together to take advantage of all that is known about cyberspace and what can be done is a source of hope for all of us."