Hackers Staying Ahead of the Law Expert Urges Changes in Talk Here

Article excerpt

As computer hackers become more skillful and brazen, the law struggles to keep up, a Justice Department official said here Tuesday.

Investigators must almost catch hackers in the act - or "real time" in computer jargon - to identify and thwart them, said Scott Charney, chief of the department's computer crimes unit.

Some hackers - they're called "phone phreakers" - are expert at using computers to manipulate telephone facilities, Charney said.

You can now pay $100 and get illegally obtained information about whether your telephone is being tapped. For $400, you can buy someone else's credit card number. For a mere $50, a hacker will tell you if authorities are logging your telephone calls.

At a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Charney disclosed what he called his Charney Theorem: "There is always a percentage of the population up to no good."

The Justice Department plans to offer amendments to the Privacy Protection Act, which is designed to protect newspapers and other publishers of information from search warrants. Efforts to make it easier to get such warrants will be controversial because, using computer technology, virtually anyone can become a publisher, Charney acknowledged. …

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