Originally created 01/11/00

Attorney general envisions global 'cybercops'



STANFORD, Calif. -- Attorney General Janet Reno wants authorities to form a global, round-the-clock anti-cybercrime network to stop Internet lawbreakers.

"I envision a network that extends from local detectives to the FBI to investigators abroad," Reno said Monday.

Reno rolled out details of the so-called LawNet to several hundred members of the National Association of Attorneys General gathered at Stanford University.

The program would include teams of highly skilled computer crime prosecutors and investigators, regional forensic computer laboratories and technology sharing, Reno said.

She also proposed a new interstate compact to ensure enforcement of out-of-state subpoenas and warrants stemming from Internet investigations.

"The Internet is indeed a splendid tool of wonder, but there is a dark side of hacking, crashing networks and viruses that we absolutely must address," she said.

The growth in ecommerce is creating opportunities for cybercrime. An FBI survey of Fortune 500 companies found 62 percent reported computer security breaches during the past year, she said.

The LawNet proposal partially addresses a directive President Clinton issued last year to encourage law enforcement and crucial industries in the country to set up information-sharing networks.

Prosecutors at the conference responded to the LawNet proposal with a standing ovation, saying they need new law enforcement tools.

"The unfortunate side effect of the Internet's tremendous growth has been that it provides criminals with a new opportunity to reach a mass of potential victims," said Christopher Painter, a federal prosecutor focused on computer crime.

Reno said a significant part of LawNet would be to address questions of jurisdiction, a challenge prosecutors said they face when fighting Internet crime.

"There are a lot of questions about which law applies, and even who is going to enforce that law," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "I'm very enthusiastic about this plan to get us all together."

Reno said LawNet would also need to focus on privacy issues, protecting consumers from invasions like the CD Universe extortion case.

There, a hacker stole credit card numbers from the Internet music retailer and posted them on a Web site after CD Universe refused to pay a $100,000 ransom.

"It is perhaps not Big Brother we should be worried about, but big browser," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "We need to be fearful that the aggregation of information, if it is misused, is very terrifying."