New laws for new technology

Current federal laws and resources are doing their best against a wave of Internet crime, but the government has to quickly mobilize new controls to thoroughly combat cybercrime, a White House study indicates.

The Internet brings new challenges to law enforcement, including real-time tracing, the lack of domestic or international boundaries and the need to coordinate investigations across many agencies, according to the report from the President's Working Group on Unlawful Conduct on the Internet. Some laws may need to be "amended to better reflect the realities of new technologies," according to the report, which was released late last month.

The working group, formed by President Clinton last August and led by Attorney General Janet Reno, is made up of more than 10 senior federal officials, including the secretaries of Treasury, Commerce and Education.

The report focuses on tying together the private sector's need for a commerce-friendly environment and law enforcement's protections.

"These goals are not inconsistent. Rather, they are mutually reinforcing: Continued growth in economic commerce will require a stable, predictable legal environment that incorporates enforcement of consumer protections," the report states. "And focused law enforcement efforts in turn will promote greater consumer confidence and trust in the Internet as a safe and secure medium of communications and commerce."

The working group has a three-pronged strategy to address crime on the Internet:

    * Evaluate the need for Internet-specific regulation, rather than assuming that current statutes cannot address technology-related crimes.

    * Meet the needs of federal, state, local and international law enforcement, especially in the areas of training, new tools and capabilities, and coordination.

    * Support industry self-regulation and the development of education and outreach to inform citizens of the risks and ethics involved in use of the Internet.

The report is available online.

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