New Norton Cyber-Crime Unit Delivers Expertise to Fight Emerging Threats

News Analysis: Symantec's new Norton Cybersecurity Institute was organized to serve as a facilitator in partnerships among law enforcement, government, private industry and education to fight online crime in all its forms.

Symantec took over the U.S. Capitol visitor's center in Washington May 4 to announce the launch of the Norton Cybersecurity Institute. The launch of the new program, which is intended to fight cyber-crime through education of law enforcement, the courts and investigators, is the culmination of a year's worth of planning.

Adam Palmer, who heads the Norton effort, is based at one of the national centers for cyber-crime fighting, near Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. Palmer is an authority on cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism and on the best means of fighting it.

I asked Palmer whether the United States should be expecting some sort of cyber-terrorism in retaliation for the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. His response surprised me a little. "It's all crime," he said, "regardless of the motivation."

Palmer, who is the Norton Lead Cybersecurity Advisor for the new Norton Cybersecurity Institute, said that the biggest threat to most people from the bin Laden news will be criminals who will purport to show photos of the dead terrorist as a way to appeal to morbid curiosity. Those photos will contain malware.

"Any time there are events like this, cyber-criminals take advantage of this and exploit people's interest in it," Palmer said. "They quickly adapt technology. They even take advantage of national tragedies. They know people want to see pictures, read stories and will open attachments." Palmer said that an important part of his mission at the Cybersecurity Institute is training law enforcement officers about this kind of exploitation.

He said that the Institute is sponsoring education about emerging threat initiatives and then putting people who have to deal with those threats in a room together as a way to encourage cooperation and collaboration. He noted that in many cases, the Norton Cybersecurity Institute is paying for the travel expenses of law enforcement officers from foreign countries so that they can work with the FBI and other U.S. investigators when they're fighting the same threat.

Palmer is also working with a number of existing groups with similar aims. Those groups include the National Cyber Forensic & Training Alliance (NCFTA), theSociety for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB), the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law (NCJRL). Palmer said that the Cybersecurity Institute is fostering collaboration with these and other groups, and is providing financial support where it's needed.

The Norton Cybersecurity Institute has been in development for a year, but was formally introduced in Washington on May 4. Palmer is a former Navy JAG officer and prosecutor who specialized in cyber-crime while serving in the Navy. Palmer has been active in cyber-crime training for law enforcement since then, and joined Norton and Symantec to further that work.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...