The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to H.R. 5938, a cyber crime initiative which contains numerous provisions to enhance the nation's laws against cybercrimes. The legislation, which passed the U.S. Senate on July 30, 2008, amends existing computer crime laws to make it easier for federal law enforcement to prosecute spyware violations.
Spyware has been defined as "software that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge and which may send such information to another entity without the consumer's consent, or asserts control over a computer without the consumer's knowledge." A recent study done by the National CyberSecurity Alliance revealed that over 90% of consumers had some form of spyware on their computers and most consumers were not aware of it.
"For the past four years, I have worked to enhance the criminal laws to crack down on spyware violations," said Rep. Goodlatte. "On three separate occasions, my legislation passed the House of Representatives. I am extremely pleased that the Congress has taken my approach and passed criminal legislation to combat spyware. This legislation attacks the problem without imposing excessive regulations on the entire Internet. This is a huge victory for consumers, and I will work to make sure that federal law enforcement uses this new law to aggressively combat spyware crimes."
Goodlatte continued, "Just as we would expect a burglar to face criminal charges for invading a home and stealing property, we should expect the same from people who break into our computers to gather personal information. I believe that H.R. 5938 is a good first step in combating spyware and I intend to continue working to help protect consumers' computers."
Spyware presents several potential risks including the promotion of identity theft, by harvesting personal information from consumers' computers. Additionally, it can adversely affect businesses, as they are forced to sustain costs to block and remove spyware from employees' computers, not to mention the potential impact on productivity.
There is also a growing concern that persistent computer security vulnerabilities may expose U.S. critical infrastructure and government computer systems to cyber attacks, which would ultimately jeopardize national security and the economy.
H.R. 5938 will now be sent to the President for his signature.