Government, Industry Call for New Cybercrime Law

House panel told of need for tougher penalties, more aggressive enforcement

Washington

Stopping cybercrime is going to require new laws, more money and legal protections for companies that share security data with the government, lawmakers were told last week.

During three hearings held in the past month, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime heard several ideas for cybercrime legislation—including tougher penalties and more funding—from government officials, trade groups and private companies.

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Cyberlaw Upgrade

The Bush administration wants Congress to make it easier to track cybercriminals.

Trap and trace: Officials want to ensure that laws used to trace phone calls apply to computer networks.

One-stop shopping: A law that would let a judge authorize a signal trace extending over many jurisdictions.

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Among those calling for action at last week's final hearing was Robert Chesnut, a vice president at eBay Inc. in San Jose. The online auctioneer wants it to be illegal for spammers to "harvest" e-mail addresses—a "parasitic process" that undermines public confidence in e-commerce, he said.

"[Individuals constantly] come to our site, steal our addresses and then use those e-mail addresses to send illegal spam," said Chesnut. EBay has more than 29 million registered users.

Trade group officials called for legislation to protect corporate security data shared with government agencies from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). "Companies worry that . . . FOIA requests for information they have provided to an agency could prove embarrassing or costly," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) is expected to introduce legislation that would provide an FOIA exemption to corporate security data. In the House, Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and James Moran (D-Va.) last year co-sponsored similar legislation. The House and Senate bills are expected to be introduced before Congress takes its August recess, according to congressional sources.

Those representing business interests emphasized that law enforcers have to move aggressively, particularly in intellectual property protection.

"Criminal prosecution and penalties provide deterrence in a way that civil judgments cannot," said Bob Kruger, a vice president at the Business Software Alliance in Washington. He added that piracy costs some $11.75 billion annually.

There has been progress in stepping up the pace of prosecutions, but a sustained effort is needed, Kruger said. "Pirates need to know that they stand to lose not just money but also their liberty," he said.

Rep. Lama Smith (R-Texas), the committee chairman, said many laws haven't been updated to reflect new technologies since the mid-1980s. "We hope that these hearings will result in some legislation," he said.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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