Uncle Sam seeks cybercrime aid

Uncle Sam seeks cybercrime aid

Rep. Steve Horn leads a congressional look into international computer security.

Justice promotes international effort

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The spate of high-profile computer attacks in the past six months has pushed federal officials to launch international prevention, detection and investigation efforts.

'Computer crime is global in scope,' said James K. Robinson, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Criminal Division. He spoke this spring at an international computer crime conference in Oslo, Norway.

Global conferences and congressional hearings on fighting international cybercrime are increasingly common as the urgency to fend off worms, viruses and other computer attacks grows.

Distributed denial-of-service attacks, allegedly originating from Canada, against popular Web sites and the ILOVEYOU virus, which supposedly emanated from the Philippines, underscore the technical, infrastructure and legal challenges law enforcement officials face.

'Criminals can choose to weave their communications through service providers in a number of different countries to hide their tracks,' Robinson said. 'As a result, even crimes that seem local in nature might require international assistance and cooperation.'

The issue has also made its way to Capitol Hill.

'Among the variety of players, who is coordinating an efficient, effective response to this international problem?' asked Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, last month at a hearing on cybercrime. A panel of international law enforcement officials testified.

Worldwide watch

Interpol, an international police cooperative that includes agents from the Treasury and Justice departments, facilitates an information exchange among law enforcement agencies from 178 member countries. The organization is prepared to assist in cybercrime issues, said Edgar A. Adamson, chief of Interpol's U.S. Central Bureau.

'To respond effectively, U.S. law enforcement authorities must be able to overcome the very real cultural, linguistic, legal and digital barriers that complicate the positive exchange of criminal investigative information across sovereign boundaries,' he said at the House hearing.

The interagency National Infrastructure Protection Center has tried to foster such international cooperation.

Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Sweden have formed NIPC-like organizations to fend off cyberattacks, said Michael Vatis, NIPC director. The center almost weekly hosts a foreign delegation to discuss cases and international cooperation.

An international panel began looking at high-tech crime in 1997, Attorney General Janet Reno said in April at the Cybercrime Summit at Stanford University Law School.

Talks began last fall to create an around-the-clock network comprising representatives of 20 countries to facilitate investigative assistance, Reno said.

'There is a need to set up special communication channels, which should be open 24 hours a day to process urgent and critical cases,' testified Juergen Maurer, detective chief superintendent of the German Federal Police, at the House hearing. He emphasized the importance of international standards for data preservation and disclosure to law enforcement.

In March, Reno also met with ministers of justice from members of the Organization of American States in Costa Rica to develop common laws and investigative procedures.

Federal officials also plan to explore formalization of the current informal cooperation between security agencies around the world at the World E-Com 2000 summit this fall. The three-day summit will take place in October in London.

The Council of Europe's draft convention on cybercrime, released in April, is the first multilateral treaty to address the spread of criminal activity in computer networks.

The draft, at www.cybercrime.gov/coedraft.htm, is available for public comment until December.

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