Monday, February 23, 2009

Recent Computer Crime Legislation

On September 26, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 (“ITERA”) into law*. The ITERA targets identity theft, phishing and spam. The Act also eliminates the need to experience economic damages before the federal government can prosecute individuals for hacking and other cybercrimes.

A December survey, conducted by the Ponemon Institute discovered that 92% of responding organizations had fallen victim to some form of cybercrime. In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission reported 221,226 Internet-related fraud complaints. As a result of the new legislation, the Department of Justice is devoting significant resources to the prosecution of computer crime. A February 2009 Article in the ABA Journal quotes John Lynch, a deputy chief in the computer crime and intellectual property division of the DOJ as saying: “The Department of Justice can call on more than 200 assistant U.S. attorneys trained to work on computer crime.”

With the DOJ expanding its prosecution of computer crime, companies and individuals who are victims of computer crime may be able to get more assistance from the DOJ than in the past. It is anticipated that the DOJ will more actively pursue all manner of computer crimes than in years past. If you are the victim of a computer crime or are charged with a technology related crime, it is now more important than ever that you retain a law firm that understands computers, the issues surrounding new technology and this rapidly changing area of law.

Within the past month, Senator Cornyn and Representative Smith have proposed new legislation that would require Internet Service Providers to store information about every user and keep the data for a period of at least two years. The language of the proposed statute is exceedingly broad and, according to the February 20, 2009 issue of PC World Magazine would apply even to owners of home wireless routers. In addition, the proposed Internet Safety Act would impose stiffer penalties for activities related to child pornography.

Computer crimes against companies are often perpetrated by disgruntled former employees or youthful hackers. These hackers often gain access through unprotected internet ports discovered during a port scan, packet sniffing software or the installation of Trojan horse programs. In other cases, malware may be installed on company systems to intentionally cause damage or to access credit information or secure data.

From being one of the first law firms to have a website to now utilizing the latest technologies, the attorneys and staff of Gross & Romanick, P.C work hard to ensure that they continue to use and understand the newest issues surrounding technology. In fact, one of our attorneys teaches courses in Computer Ethics at George Mason University. Handling a case that involves computers requires retaining a law firm that understands computers and the applicable laws. Gross & Romanick, P.C. has remained at the forefront of the intersection of law and technology since its founding in 1980.

*As an aside, the ITERA was actually not passed by Congress as separate and distinct legislation. The relevant provisions of the ITERA were grafted onto the Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008 after the ITERA twice failed to pass in the House of Representatives. The Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008 was designed to provide former Vice Presidents and their families with Secret Service protection for 6 months after they leave office.

© 2009, Gross & Romanick, P.C.