Magazine article Security Management

Patriot's International Implications: The USA Patriot Act Expanded the Definition of "Protected Computers" to Include Any outside the U.S. Where Communications Pass through a U.S.-Based Network. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Security Management

Patriot's International Implications: The USA Patriot Act Expanded the Definition of "Protected Computers" to Include Any outside the U.S. Where Communications Pass through a U.S.-Based Network. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

When Congress passed what is known as the USA Patriot Act after September 11, it dramatically expanded the legal definition of a "protected computer." Previously, the law considered a computer within the United States that was used by the federal government or a financial institution, or for interstate or foreign commerce, to be protected under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But the definition now extends to computers outside of the United States where communications pass through a U.S.-based network.

With this change, "we no longer have to rely on trying to tenuously establish jurisdiction. If there's a demonstration that a server was used here or that [packets of information] passed through here, jurisdiction is established," says Abby Notterman, counsel for the Internet Crimes Group. Under the new definition, a hacker in Germany who attacks another German computer could face prosecution in the United States if, for example, any packets pass through a server or router in Virginia.

While this broad definition might make it easier for U.S. law enforcement to assist or join foreign investigations, it could set a dangerous precedent, says Mark Rasch, vice president of cyberlaw with Predictive Systems, a network infrastructure and security consulting company. "The first problem is one of plain old sovereignty," he says. "We're saying we intend to impose our standards on everybody else in the world," a situation that would raise hackles in the United States if, for example, the Chinese government were to make the same declaration, he says. "The United States is trying to apply domestic law to activities that occur overseas if they affect us, and every country wants to do that. …

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