Cybercrime and the Congress
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KWAME HOLMAN: Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh went to Capitol Hill today to explain what the justice department is doing about the recent spate of cyber-attacks on major commercial Web sites.
LOUIS FREEH: The victim companies of these attacks, as I mentioned, are cooperating fully with the FBI, And as I mentioned, in many case furnishing, in addition to leads, very important technical support. Additionally, members of the community at large– in fact, some hackers, many of whom condemned the present attacks publicly– have come forward and supplied extremely valuable information to the FBI, for which we are very grateful. Five of our major offices where the target companies are located– Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and Seattle– have initiated full investigations.
KWAME HOLMAN: Freeh also said the FBI has initiated investigations in several other countries including Canada and Germany.
LOUIS FREEH: As we saw over the millennial period, the ability to conduct investigations in this particular subject matter require absolutely the instantaneous ability to contact and work with our overseas partners. We know that the growth of the Internet has certainly been the single reason why these threats have been not only elevated but why the compromising of the systems that we’ve seen in the past few weeks have such broad implications.
KWAME HOLMAN: New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, asked the nation’s two top law enforcers if they have the legal tools they need to go after cyber-hackers.
SEN. JUDD GREGG: Do you believe there’s any need for any additional statutory authority for… In order to pursue the crimes that we’re seeing?
JANET RENO: We’re going to need to consider additional tools to locate and identify the criminals. For example, we may need to strengthen the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by closing the loophole that allows computer hackers, who have caused a large amount of damage to a network of computers, to escape punishment if no individual computer sustained over $5,000 worth of damage. And I think that is important. We may also need to update our trap and trace laws under which we are able to identify the origin and destination of telephone calls and computer messages. Under current law, in some instances, we must obtain court orders in multiple jurisdictions to trace a single communication. It might be extremely helpful, for instance, to provide nationwide effect for trap and trace orders. We must also ensure that in upgrading our computer-crime fighting laws we ensure that appropriate privacy safeguards are maintained and wherever possible strengthened.
SEN. JUDD GREGG: Director Freeh, do you have any further thoughts on that?
LOUIS FREEH: The only thing I would add to that– and I think it’s an issue that we are exploring– is whether some of this activity which is beyond a single episode of fraud or hacking, you know, gets into the realm of enterprise criminal activity. In other words, whether somebody or a group of people doing this is engaging in a… in fact criminal enterprise, which of course would bring it into the racketeering statutes with much more substantial penalties than all these current predicate statutes.
KWAME HOLMAN: However, Reno said the private sector should take the lead in policing the Internet.
JANET RENO: I think that with respect to prevention, much can be done by the private sector, with, as I suggested, the law enforcement agencies providing suggestions, thoughts, and discussion as to what our experience in terms of the investigation of actual crime in this area has produced that would indicate what steps could have been taken to have prevented it. But I don’t think we should interrupt the energy of the Internet by doing it top-down and suggesting that mandates and directives be imposed on the private sector. I think we can do so much if we build a partnership that is based on mutual respect and is based on our experience.
KWAME HOLMAN: Still, computer company officials who testified later today said some in their industry are reluctant to divulge technology secrets even to aid a cyber crime investigation.