Attorney General Envisions Crime-Fighting Collaboration

Attorney General Janet Reno recently proposed a cooperative network that

would enable law enforcement agencies nationwide to share information on

electronic crimes.

The proposal, delivered at a meeting of the National Association of

Attorneys General, calls on state attorneys general to set up an around-the-clock

network of computer crime agents within every state, enabling authorities

who uncover a crime in one state to work quickly with counterparts in other

states to track down cybercriminals.

Reno's proposal came amid news reports that a computer hacker had stolen

300,000 credit card numbers through Internet music retailer CD Universe

and posted some of the numbers on the World Wide Web.

"While the Internet and other information technologies are bringing

enormous benefits to society, they also provide new opportunities for criminal

behavior," Reno said. "The Internet changes everything — and it's changing

law enforcement in dramatic ways."

Bubby Moser, executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association,

said he supports Reno's proposal for a cooperative network on cybercrimes — dubbed LawNet by Reno.

"All this [communication] has to be in place," Moser said. "And [Reno]

is right on top of it."

Moser said plans for a network should encompass all levels of law enforcement — from local governments to federal agencies to foreign law enforcement

organizations. An international scope to sharing cybercrime information

is emerging, with the Justice Department recently setting up an information-sharing

network on cybercrime with G-8 nations.

Reno's proposal also includes developing a secure online clearinghouse

of information that federal, state and local law enforcement agents can

access to share information on pending cases, potential targets of computer

crime and contact personnel for crimes on the Internet.

Moreover, the proposal suggests the creation of regional computer forensics

labs that would enable state and local law enforcement agencies to pool

resources to investigate computer crimes. It also calls on states to work

on jurisdictional issues when cybercrimes involve more than one state.

"I think this [proposal] is a good idea. One of the problems has been

venue issues," said Michael Anderson, president of Gresham, Ore.-based New

Technologies Inc., a computer forensics firm that works with state, local

and federal law enforcement agencies.

Anderson said figuring out which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction

proves a challenge when a cybercriminal is in one state and the victim is

in another. "The first thing to do is to get communications going between

the different states. The jurisdictional issues will follow," he said.

Communicating quickly is important in cybercases because electronic

evidence can disappear fast as data on high-traffic Internet servers get

replaced by fresh data. "What happens in these things is you have to move

very quickly before the evidence goes away," Anderson said.

Reno has urged state attorneys general to develop a framework for LawNet

by March.

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