SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) — California has
become a major U.S. target of cyber crimes committed by outlaw groups
with ties to Eastern Europe, China and Africa, according to a report by
state Attorney General Kamala Harris released on Thursday.
As part of a broader report on international organized crime
groups, Harris said about 17 percent of attempts to hack into major
computer networks in the United States in 2012 were aimed at
California, which is the most populous U.S. state.
"Transnational criminal organizations are relying increasingly on
cybercrime as a source of funds — which means they are frequently
targeting, and illicitly using, the digital tools and content
developed in our state," Harris said in a statement attached to the
In addition to computer crimes, Harris's report detailed activities
of international organized crime groups including human trafficking
and drug smuggling, along with classic scams.
Many groups are organized along ethnic lines, with ringleaders often
outside the United States and foot soldiers and victims in immigrant
communities in the country, it said.
"The growth of transnational criminal organizations seriously
threatens California's safety and economic well-being," said Harris,
who plans to lead a series of meetings in Mexico next week to
discuss the problem.
Criminal groups with ties to the former Soviet Union and Central
Europe run gangs throughout California, including the Armenian Power
gang, which has links to cyber-crime, financial fraud, identity
theft gambling, narcotics and human trafficking, the report said.
More than two-thirds of methamphetamine imported into the United
States comes through California from Mexico, trafficked by
international gangs, Harris said.
In addition, the state's technology and entertainment-driven economy
has made it particularly vulnerable to computer virus attacks and
stolen intellectual property, the report said.
The amount of online activity used for copyright infringement across
the world has grown about 160 percent from 2010 to 2012 and
threatens to affect California more than other U.S. states, the
"There is little doubt that over the years digital piracy has robbed
creative industries based in California of hundreds of millions of
dollars in revenue and jobs," it said.
Online fraud schemes in which goods or services are purchased online
but never delivered have affected Californians more than people in
other states, the report said.
"As transnational criminal organizations evolve in the search for
profits, California will continue to be an attractive target,"
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Mohammad Zargham)