ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Secret Service launched a new task force Friday aimed at bolstering efforts to stop cybercrime in St. Louis and eastern Missouri.
More than 100 people, most law enforcement officials, attended a meeting to launch the Gateway Electronic Crimes Task Force.
The Secret Service office in St. Louis will oversee the task force, one of nearly 30 around the country.
John Large of the Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division said cybercrime has grown far beyond the days when teenage hackers would break into a system just to see if they could do it. Today, organized criminal groups are breaking into financial systems. And many of the criminals are based overseas.
"We need to get other countries to change their laws and participate in international agreements so these criminals aren't participating from safe havens," Large said.
Large showed an example of a Russian Web site offering vast amounts of credit card information stolen from U.S. residents. The site is accessible only to other criminals.
"It's sad to say, but the criminals many times work better together than law enforcement does," Large said. "And that's got to stop."
The Secret Service was organized in 1865 to combat counterfeiting. It is perhaps best known for its role in protecting the president, vice president and other top-level executives. That role began after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.
Large said the Secret Service takes the same approach to stop cybercrime as it does to prevent counterfeiting: Be proactive, move aggressively, work undercover.
Philip Noble, special agent in charge of the Secret Service office in St. Louis, was in Louisville, Ky., when the service began a similar task force there in 2005. Two weeks after the task force was formed, the Secret Service received a call from a bank. A hacker had stolen $2 million over a two-hour period.
Noble said the task force was able to stop the loss of money immediately, and the investigation eventually led to a suspect in Romania.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)