Making the Punishment Fit the (Cyber)crime ; after Last Week's Internet Attacks, US Plans to Increase Efforts to Combat Hackers

By Francine Kiefer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Making the Punishment Fit the (Cyber)crime ; after Last Week's Internet Attacks, US Plans to Increase Efforts to Combat Hackers


Francine Kiefer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Computer crime, along with the industry itself, is growing exponentially - and law enforcement is having a tough time keeping up.

At an Internet summit with President Clinton and other administration officials this week, corporate executives complained that they have taken detailed cases to law enforcement, only to find they were either ignored or response was slow.

The inattention is due to manpower shortages, inadequate forensic equipment, and judges who sometimes view hackers as merely pesky, electronic joyriders, says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America.

It appears that Washington is now getting the message, driven home by last week's unprecedented hacking of some of the world's largest Web sites.

"It's hard to keep up. We need to have training and we need to have tools. The field is constantly changing, and we need to adapt," says Jessica Herrera, a trial attorney in the computer-crime section of the Justice Department.

Yesterday, Attorney General Janet Reno called for a "five-year plan" to focus on cybercrime - similar to a plan to focus on terrorism - when she and FBI director Louis Freeh testified on the subject before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

With some analysts projecting e-commerce as a $1.5 trillion business by 2003, the White House is trying to raise spending on computer security.

This week, it announced plans to seek a $9 million, supplemental increase in this year's federal budget for fighting cybercrime. Its $2.3 billion budget request for 2001 represents a 16 percent increase over this year.

The House Judiciary Committee, concerned that cybercrime laws are neither broad enough nor penalties tough enough, will hold a hearing March 1 to look at both - and is even talking about giving the administration more resources than it has requested. …

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