Nations Gather To Target Cybercrime

As Philippine government efforts to solve the Love Bug virus mystery progress at a snail’s pace, representatives of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations are meeting in Paris today to discuss coordinated efforts to fight cybercrime.

The G8, all seriously affected by the virus, will attempt to take proactive steps to deal with what they consider to be the inevitability of future viruses. The three-day meeting will focus on the importance of international cooperation in the fight against Internet crime.

Those attending the conference include judges, police, diplomats, business leaders and civil liberties groups.

Some industry observers believe that reaching international agreement on methods of dealing with cybercrime will be slow going, due to conflicting laws among participating nations, as well as varying governmental positions on overseeing Internet activity.

The United States will likely maintain its aggressive stance, favoring quick, flexible solutions, such as the creation of an international cyber police organization.

Some western European nations, on the other hand, have expressed hesitation in allowing governmental intervention and prying into personal affairs. These nations are likely to favor more traditional judicial cooperation, even though conventional law enforcement moves at a pace that often lags behind online activity.

G8 Struggles to Address Cybercrime

The Paris meeting is timely, not only because of the shockwaves sent throughout the world by the recent virus, but also because the G8 are readying themselves for their annual summit, to be held in July in Okinawa.

The agenda for the summit already includes a focus on high-tech crime. Earlier this year, Keizo Obuchi, the late prime minister of Japan, issued a statement regarding the upcoming summit, saying in part, “While the positive effects of Internet technology on the economy are clearly visible, we are required to provide a telling response to IT-related problems such as high-tech crime.”

Obuchi also stressed the necessity for the G8 to address the role governments should play in Internet technology.

Possible Multi-National Treaty

Meanwhile, in a separate effort, the 41-nation Council of Europe, working in tandem with the United States, Canada, Japan and South Africa, is drafting a treaty to standardize cybercrime laws.

The treaty would require countries to pass laws against hacking, computer fraud and online child pornography, and would also set penalties and coordinate international investigations.

One of its more controversial provisions would require companies and individuals to “empower their national authorities to carry out computer searches and seize computer data” and turn over data to law enforcement officials when asked, the Council of Europe says. This approach is expected to generate some debate over personal privacy and how far national and international authorities should be allowed to probe in their anti-cybercrime efforts.

Another issue that has dogged international investigations into cybercrime is that of jurisdiction. The new treaty does address jurisdiction, but does not favor an international court.

The text of the treaty is expected to be finalized by December and considered for ratification in September 2001.

Love Bug Investigation Stymied

As dozens of nations struggle to address the inevitability of increased online criminal activity, all eyes remain on the Philippines, where the investigation into the Love Bug virus made little progress over the weekend.

While the virus may have boosted an international sense of urgency to implement governmental safeguards, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation’s computer crime squad is grappling with a lack of experience in such investigations, as well as almost no equipment to analyze computer programs. Additionally, law enforcement officials and the courts are not familiar with technology issues.

As the investigation continues to center around several Filipino computer students, investigators say they plan to charge the responsible parties under the closest law they have: a 1998 statute designed to combat credit card theft that forbids the use of fraudulent information to obtain goods or services. Reportedly, officials will argue that the suspects used stolen passwords to tap into an ISP in Manila.

The Philippines, like a number of other countries, has no law against computer hacking. Industry analysts now estimate that the Love Bug’s high-tech terrorism has cost the world roughly $8 billion (US$).

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