Hatch and Biden Introduce Bill to Pull the Plug on Internet Criminals
Today U.S. Senators Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), both former Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Cyber-Crime Act of 2007 today in order to strengthen the federal government's capability to combat cyber-crimes. Cyber-crimes include hacking, the theft of confidential information, and the transmission of computer worms and viruses. Current law hasn't kept up with the fast pace of new criminal technologies - right now there are holes in the law that cyber-criminals can readily exploit. The Cyber-Crime Act will fix this, update the law and put us one step ahead of the cyber-criminals, instead of one step behind.
"The integration of computer networks has increased the ability of individuals and businesses to store vast amounts of data, leading to greater productivity and financial savings," Sen. Hatch said. "However, these same networks have proven to be prime targets for criminals. Cyber crime has become such a problem in Utah that our Attorney General has set up a separate office to combat ID theft. As criminals exploit technological changes, the Secret Service and FBI must maintain their vigorous efforts to investigate cyber crime activity. I am confidant that in this bill we have written the necessary provisions for appropriate and aggressive pursuit of those who inflict such harm to our society."
"Today, a hacker can use a computer virus to interrupt communications or bring online business to a screeching halt. With a few strokes on a keyboard, a cyber-criminal could damage critical Internet-based infrastructures like emergency response, transportation, healthcare and criminal justice systems," said Sen. Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Crime and Drugs. "Perhaps most frightening is how quickly a hacker could damage our national defense and security systems."
As Internet technologies advance and Americans become increasingly reliant on online communication, the threat of Internet crimes grows every day. A recently released study by the Computer Security Institute reported that in 2006 more than 50 percent of online business experienced a network intrusion. The 303 businesses surveyed indicated they lost more than $52 million to computer crimes in 2006. In addition to this financial impact, online crimes pose a substantial threat to privacy and to the health and safety of our communities (consider, for instance, a virus that wipes out a hospital's patient history records or takes down a 9-1-1 response center).
"Although these crimes are virtual, their impact is measured in real dollars and occasionally in physical injury or death. Our laws must keep pace with the changes in Internet technologies in order to adequately protect our citizens and government against these growing threats. The Cyber-Crime Act of 2007 helps law enforcement pull the plug on hackers and other cyber-criminals by expanding our current cyber-crime laws relating to damages and extortion and by providing key funding to help catch these Internet thieves," added Sen. Biden.
The Cyber-Crime Act updates and improves the current cyber-crime law. Right now, felony provisions that outlaw damaging a computer network apply only if a cyber-criminal causes more than $5,000 worth of damage in any given year. If a hacker damages 1,500 personal computers, law enforcement faces the nearly impossible challenge of identifying all the victims proving that the aggregate damage caused exceeds $5,000. The Cyber-Crime Act closes this loophole by allowing law enforcement to prove, as an alternative to the $5,000 damage amount, that the conduct in question damaged 10 or more computers. The Cyber-Crime Act also fixes a current loophole concerning extortion, by outlawing not only threats to damage computers, but also threats to reveal confidential information illegally obtained from computers. The Act also bans the creation of a bot-net, a network of comprised computers intended to be used to commit an online crime; provides for the forfeiture of computer equipment used in the commission of a crime; and directs the Sentencing Commission to update the sentencing guidelines applicable to computer crimes.
"Bot-nets can consist of hundreds of thousands of computers, and most victims are unaware their computer equipment has been compromised," Sen. Hatch said. "An underground market has developed for these bot-nets, as criminals are renting these compromised networks to carry out different types of attacks. Bot-nets have the ability to grow exponentially, and the potential damage from these networks grows accordingly."
Sen. Hatch and Biden's legislation ensures that as Internet technology evolves and online criminals become more sophisticated, computer networks - whether owned by a private user, a corporation or the government - remain adequately protected from intrusion or attack.
Specifically, the Cyber-Crime Act of 2007 will:
* Criminalize any threat to damage a computer network, or disclose confidential information illegally obtained from a network;
* Criminalize online conduct that causes limited damage to a large number of computers;
* Prohibit the creation of a bot-net that a criminal could use to attack online businesses and other computer networks;
* Permit law enforcement to seize computer equipment and other property used to perpetrate computer crimes;
* Provide funds for local and federal law enforcement, including the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Justice, and the FBI, to investigate and prosecute criminal activity involving computers; and
* Authorize the U.S. Sentencing Commission to update their guidelines to reflect the severity of Internet crimes.
Before the Senate can consider the Cyber-Crime Act of 2007, the Senate Judiciary Committee must vote on the legislation.