Feds Crack Down On Cybercrime

A new aggressive stance against illegal file sharing, combined with a dragnet against spammers, defines the Justice Department's proactive stance against cybercrime.
While the practice of offering up private funding in support of criminal cases isn't common, Kevin Lyles, a partner in law firm Jones Day, says it's not unheard of. "It's not really surprising," he says. "The law-enforcement authorities just don't have the resources to make a dent in the spam problem in the United States. And even if they did, the spammers would move offshore."

In July, Microsoft said it has assigned a full-time analyst and provided more than $46,000 in software to the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, a cyberforensics organization established by the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, Carnegie Mellon University, and West Virginia University. By coordinating academia, government, industry, and law enforcement, the group aims to refine cybercrime investigation tactics and combat online threats.

"Cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated every day, and their tactics are becoming increasingly deceptive. It's only through creative and strategic cooperative efforts that these online con artists can be identified and tracked and stopped," says Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's Internet safety enforcement attorney. "Microsoft recognizes that this cannot be done alone, and we're very encouraged by the announcement today."

Bradford Brown, chairman of the National Center for Technology & Law at George Mason University School of Law, says industry groups have a history of working with the government. "The industry asked the Justice Department to do something, and it's doing it," he says.

Among those in the E-mail technology industry, the prosecutions are welcome, but few believe they'll have much impact. David Strickler, CEO of E-mail protection company Mailwise, likens spamming to drug dealing in that both activities have proven profitable. "Quite frankly, a full-time spammer can pull down a six-figure income," he says. "I don't think there's a solution except to take the money away."

But the much-maligned Can-Spam law isn't entirely toothless. Richi Jennings, an analyst with messaging research firm Ferris Research, writes via E-mail, "A less-well-known aspect of Can-Spam is that vendors who contract with spammers are also breaking the law. Perhaps we'll see some prosecutions using this angle."

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