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Justice Dept. says new laws needed to track hackers

Computerworld

March 2, 2000
Web posted at: 8:41 a.m. EST (1341 GMT)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (IDG) -- U.S. Department of Justice officials Tuesday told a joint congressional committee that the law has to be changed to make it easier to pursue hackers. They also want more money to hire prosecutors and analysts, as well as improve research capabilities of federal, state and local law enforcers investigating cybercrime.

"I would not want to alarm people," said Eric Holder, deputy attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, "but this is a problem that is ever changing and rapidly expanding. I cannot safely say that we have our hands around the problem. If we did we would not be asking for additional resources."

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One problem law enforcement officials haven't solved are the denial-of-service attacks early last month that affected Yahoo Inc., eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and some other e-commerce sites. "We are making progress," Holder told members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee Criminal Justice Oversight. The FBI is pursing hundreds of leads, analyzing logs of the victims and Internet service providers.

Some of those leads have been traced to foreign countries, although federal officials testifying said they didn't think the attacks were state-sponsored. However, nothing has been ruled out. "I think it's too early to tell what the motives might have been," said Michael Vatis, who heads the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.

But Justice officials say that changes in existing laws would have helped the investigation into the denial-of-service attacks, particularly those concerning the government's ability to trace a call.

When a hacker breaks into a system, the attack may travel a serpentine route utilizing multiple servers and carriers located in numerous states. But when police and federal agents attempt to trace the attack, they must apply for court orders in each jurisdiction -- creating a cumbersome process for investigators.

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently introduced a bill that would allow investigators, among other things, to completely trace an online communication to its source without seeking permission from each state.

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Such power "would make a tremendous difference in the conduct of this case," said Martha Stansell-Gramm, chief of the computer crime and intellectual property section at the Justice Department.

To combat cybercrime, the Justice Department is seeking an approximately 28 percent increase in next year's budget, which would add $37 million to the current $138 million budget.

Paul Misener, an Amazon.com vice president who also testified Tuesday, said the government needs to spend more funding on providing "continuous training in the latest digital forensic techniques" and to retain senior information technology professionals and attract new ones.




RELATED STORIES:
We can prevent those distributed denial of service attacks with 'egress filtering'
March 1, 2000
FBI Web site hacked last week
February 26, 2000
Net crime does pay for cops
February 24, 2000
Avoiding future denial-of-service attacks
February 23, 2000
Hacker hunters follow lead to Germany
February 13, 2000

RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
How to prevent DoS attacks
(InfoWorld.com)
FBI hit with denial-of-service attack
(Computerworld)
The real victims of Internet fraud
(The Industry Standard)
U.S. cyberattack protection plan draws criticism
(Network World Fusion)
Online broker hit by denial-of-service attack
(Computerworld)
Anti-DoS efforts take hold at universities
(InfoWorld.com)
Go hack yourself
(The Industry Standard)
College student accused of cracking NASA, defense computers
(Computerworld)

RELATED SITES:
U.S. Department of Justice

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