FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Washington, D.C. — More than 100 countries do not have the laws to deal with computer-related crime, undercutting efforts to battle a growing international threat, law enforcement officials said.
“Currently, at least 60 percent of INTERPOL membership lacks the appropriate legislation to deal with Internet/computer-related crime,” Edgar Adamson of the U.S. Customs Service told a House panel.
Adamson heads the U.S. National Central Bureau, which coordinates U.S. ties to INTERPOL, the global police alliance facilitating cooperation among 178 member nations.
In testimony prepared for the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, Adamson said the border-hopping nature of cyber crime showed the need for international law-enforcement cooperation “has never been greater.”
At issue is garden-variety crime facilitated by new technology such as child pornography, pedophilia, identity theft and credit-card fraud as well as viruses and other malicious code like the denial-of-service attacks that blocked access to major commercial Web sites in February.
Michael Vatis of the FBI, who acts as the top cyber cop in the United States, told the panel that the lack of “substantive laws that specifically criminalize computer crimes” in many countries undercuts investigations.
“This means that those countries often lack the authority not only to investigate or prosecute computer crimes that occur within their borders, but also to assist us when evidence might be located in those countries,” he said.
As examples of cases involving international cooperation, Vatis cited “hacker” attacks that have led to prosecutions in Israel, Canada, Britain and the Philippines.
He said the joint U.S.-Philippine hunt for the suspected perpetrator of the ILOVEYOU virus, which crippled many e-mail systems worldwide in early May, had been hampered by the lack of a specific computer crime statute.
“We are currently working on numerous cases that require international cooperation,” added Vatis, who heads the inter-agency National Infrastructure Protection Center. The center deploys 193 agents nationwide to investigate computer intrusion, denial-of-service attacks and virus cases.
Senior police from Israel, Sweden, Germany, the Philippines and Latvia each testified that computer-related crime was a mounting danger requiring stepped-up law-enforcement coordination.
“There is a need to set up special communication channels which should be open 24 hours a day to process urgent and critical cases,” Juergen Maurer, detective chief superintendent of the German Federal Police Office, said.
Richard Schaeffer, head of the Pentagon office of Infrastructure and Information Assurance, told the panel that more than 22,000 cyber “attacks” on U.S. Defense Department systems were reported to a joint task force for network defense last year.
“We must develop the technology, capabilities, processes and legal framework to respond to cyber events in near real time,” he said, not the hours or days it currently takes.
“There will come a time when our capabilities will be tested and national security or the economic security of the nation will depend on components … working collaboratively,” he said.