Tougher Computer Crime Laws Sought

White House Chief of Staff John Podesta made a proposal for updates to existing computer crime laws. In a speech given Monday at the National Press Club, Podesta proposed new measures which he thinks will help assure the security and trust of Americans in cyberspace. Among the proposed new measures are ideas targeted squarely at today's system crackers and lesser knowledgeable script kiddies--people with little or no knowledge of the cracking tools they use. Podesta said that federal prosecutors should have jurisdiction over juvenile offenders when it comes to serious computer attacks, but gave no indication as to what he would consider to be a serious attack.

Podesta went on to suggest that America strengthen it's Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to take account of the full range of damage caused by intruders. If Podesta's ideas become reality, multiple small attacks would be treated as one large attack, where the punishment would match the crimes. Under his proposal, mandatory jail time would be eliminated for less serious attacks, and tougher sanctions and punishment would be implemented against illegal wiretaps.

Critics point out that while Podesta's ideas are interesting, they lack vital details. Cited examples include the major hurdle of how to determine exactly what constitutes the seriousness of an attack. Critics also wondered how a series of attacks could somehow be construed to represent a single major attack, warning that prosecutors should never be allowed to morph a series of misdimeanor crimes to appear as a single felony crime. Critics went on to say that any updated wiretap laws should stear clear of fuzzy details and precisely deliniate how illegal wiretaps differ from a network operator using packet sniffing technology to monitor and troubleshoot their own networks

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