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Applied Mainstream Hacking: The Growing Field of Economic Crime Investigation

The word “hacker” still carries a largely negative connotation, conjuring up images of people using their computer skills to gain access to information they otherwise could not legally obtain. However, companies are beginning to utilize the unique knowledge and talent of professionals with a Master's in Cybersecurity to protect against the criminals of today’s online world.

In the Beginning

Since the 1980s, hacking has maintained a sour image, largely due to film and television perception. However, those who to take a closer look understand that there is a more nuanced landscape when it comes to hacking. When hacking goes mainstream it becomes known as white hat and that knowledge is used in a positive way.

Hackers are typically categorized by the color of "hat" they figuratively wear. Black hat hackers are considered criminals, while the white hats use their skills to debug or fix security problems and conduct investigations. Other than security-related computer issues, hacking can apply to people who develop open-source software or who tinker with personal computer hardware and software.

Economic Crime Investigation

If you find yourself drawn to any of these forms of mainstream hacking, you might be interested in a rapidly growing field that can make use of those unique skills – Compliance and Fraud Investigation.

In the wake of such huge scandals as Enron, Bernie Madoff and the subprime mortgage implosion, the public demanded greater oversight of the business and financial sectors. Much of that scrutiny involved the use of computer hacking. In this new field, career options include: cyberterrorism prevention, helping people avoid identity theft, tax crime investigations and credit card fraud. These combinations of skills are in high demand, so obtaining a Master’s Degree in Master's Degree in Financial Crime and Compliance Management makes a professional extremely marketable

Along with computer skills, you must have the desire to be an investigative researcher, have a firm grasp on finances and accounting and be detail-oriented. The world is increasingly becoming a more digital environment, including new digital currencies. The men and women in those monochrome hats will be busier, with newly acquired computer skills and knowledge becoming more useful.


In the area of cybercrime law and investigation, you should be aware of the different types of computer crimes that occur. Everything including Internet fraud, e-commerce crime, threats to the national infrastructure and the techniques used to investigate such crimes will come into play.

Fraud protection and detection technologies will continue to be an important aspect in personal and business safety. Knowledge about proactive technology programs and tools may be used to prevent and detect the occurrence of fraud in e-commerce and online business.

Depending on your skill level, you can develop techniques or even improve detection and prevention products. More specialized fraud prevention techniques include assessment for the risk of fraud, as well as hardcore data mining procedures and security measures. All fall within the framework of regulatory mandates and best practices.

How the Hack Happens

A person’s username and password is considered valuable information. The old-fashioned way of getting this data, meant going through the garbage in hopes of finding a personal document containing the information.

The more sophisticated way to access this information is through contacting a target (typically through their help desk) and posing in any number of roles to secure a password reset. They may act as the user, choosing their words carefully, to convince the help desk person or system administrator into giving them what they want. Other times they might pose as a supervisor or other employee within the company, using intimidation or name-dropping tactics.

On the alternative, white hat hackers sometimes try to figure out how to hack through a company’s data security protections. However, instead of doing anything harmful, they provide the company with insight on their technique so that the vulnerability can be remedied. More companies are employing white hat hackers to further protect their online network, and discover any flaws in their current defenses.

Your Desktop is the New Frontline

The battle against black hats’ trying to steal money, data and privacy will persist for the foreseeable future as the digital world continues to grow.

The types of crime you might investigate include:

  • ::  Falsification of information during a transaction (i.e. mortgage fraud)
  • ::  Stock trades designed to inflate profit or hide losses
  • ::  Ponzi schemes
  • ::  Financial institution fraud such as counterfeiting and forgery
  • ::  Credit/debit card fraud
  • ::  Loan fraud
  • ::  Money laundering
  • ::  Identity theft
  • ::  Public corruption
  • ::  Health care fraud
  • ::  Consumer fraud
  • ::  Gaming fraud
  • ::  Environmental fraud

The career opportunities in cybersecurity are virtually endless with a staggering number of businesses migrating online.

A Tip of the Hat to the Good Guys

Using white hat hackers to investigate and prosecute economic crimes is becoming a successful strategy in defending online networks and vital information against the criminals of this digital age.

Hacking has become incredibly sophisticated as the technology has evolved. With every new form of technology come new opportunities for various cyber and economic crimes to be committed. Consider pursuing a degree in economic crime investigation, a fast growing field for a rewarding career at the cutting edge of technology.