McAfee's anti-cybercrime initiative

Information technology security company McAfee Inc. has launched an anti-cybercrime initiative that includes an outreach program for education and advocacy, a response unit to assist victims of crime, and grants for nonprofit organizations that address cybercrime.

'While a lot has been done to combat cybercrime over the past decade, criminals still have the upper hand,' said McAfee's chief executive officer, Dave DeWalt, in announcing the initiative today at the company's Focus 08 security conference in Las Vegas. 'The chances of getting caught for knocking off a convenience store are several times larger than robbing an online bank. This must change.'

McAfee's strategy for fighting cybercrime focuses on technology and innovation, education, and an international legal framework.

Former White House cybersecurity adviser Howard Schmidt is chairman of the advisory council that is leading the effort. Other members of the council are Ian Brown, a research fellow at Oxford University; Lilian Edwards, a professor at the University of Sheffield; and Parry Aftab, founder and executive director of WiredSafety. Additional members will be selected from a worldwide pool of candidates who have expertise in law enforcement, policy and research.

The council will educate businesses and users on threats and defenses and identify areas where improvements are needed in technology and policy. One area targeted for improvement is cooperation among international law enforcement agencies. Because cybercrime typically crosses national borders, an international framework is needed to combat it, McAfee officials said. Cooperation is often inadequate now, and existing laws are weak and contain loopholes. McAfee recommends ratification of the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime and suggests giving special attention to countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The company praised the steps that have been taken in the United States to provide better law enforcement.

'McAfee is pleased that the U.S. cybercrime bill, the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act, was passed and signed into law in September 2008,' the strategy document states. 'This act, among other things, compensates identity theft victims and eliminates the requirement that damage to a victim must be at least $5,000 before a prosecution can be pursued. It also makes damage to 10 or more protected federal government or financial institution computers within the same year a felony. We need further modernization of our cybercrime statutes and [to] provide resources to law enforcement for research, training and equipment.'

The advisory board will also help evaluate applications for grants, which will range from $10,000 to $40,000 and go to qualified nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations for programs that have demonstrated success in fighting or educating the public about cybercrime. The intent is to make the grants geographically diverse, and special consideration will be given to programs in emerging economies where organized cybercriminals tend to operate. Applications are available online and will be evaluated quarterly beginning in January 2009.

McAfee is establishing a Cybercrime Response Unit that will assist consumers and business that have been victimized. It will help them assess the situation and advise them on steps for protecting credit and gathering evidence for law enforcement.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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