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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK
US struggles with cyber-crime

The FBI wants more money to fight crime in cyberspace
The US Government lacks the resources to deal effectively with the growing menace of cyber-crime, hi-tech companies believe.

Database giant Oracle has notified the government of a few threats, Bill Maimone, Oracle's vice president of server technologies told a conference this week.

Kevin Mitnick
Companies usually handle hackers, such as Kevin Mitnick, on their own
"But we didn't expect them to take any action. It seems so unlikely that they'd be able to do something," Mr Maimone said.

Authorities stymied

Authorities know they have to do more, and the FBI has asked Congress for $75m to better police cyberspace.

In 1998, the Justice Department was successful in prosecuting only one out of every 50 cyber-crime complaints from private industry, according to the latest figures from the department.

At a Stanford University Law School conference on cyber-crime on Wednesday, US Attorney-General Janet Reno said the private and public sectors must co-operate.

Janet Reno
US Attorney General Janet Reno wants the private sector to co-operate with authorities
"It seems to me that we all have a common goal - to keep the nation's computer network secure, safe and reliable," Ms Reno told the assembled chief executive officers and top prosecutors.

But as the threat of cyber-crime has grown, they have had to try to keep pace without adding staff.

Congress says no

The Clinton administration has asked Congress for additional staff for fighting cyber-crime for the past four years, but each time, Congress has refused.

"We're only able to respond to a limited number of the complaints we receive because we're starved for resources," said Associate Deputy Attorney General John Bentivoglio.

And as funding has remained flat, the number of computer crimes has exploded, quadrupling in the last four years, according to a survey by the FBI and San Francisco's Computer Security Institute.

As the number of attacks and intrusions rises, the cost is expected to skyrocket.

Corporations spent $7.1bn last year to protect themselves against cyber-attacks, and that number could increase to $17bn by 2003, according to the Aberdeen Group, an IT consultancy in Boston.

'Digital Storm'

The $75m budget request from the FBI in next year's budget would include $15m for a system dubbed "Digital Storm".

The FBI logo
The FBI's proposed data collection and cataloguing systems have privacy groups concerned
Digital Storm would help agents sift through both landline and mobile phone calls that the bureau listens to under federal wiretap laws.

"Advanced digital collection (will) increase the number of (wiretaps) by as much as 300% over the next 10 years," according to the FBI's budget request.

Privacy concerns

But the FBI will have to satisfy privacy concerns as it works to adapt law enforcement in the information age.

Digital Storm and other proposals worry privacy groups such as the Centre for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

Individuals should not have to voluntarily surrender their privacy by using new computer and communications technologies, James X. Dempsey, senior staff counsel for CDT, told a House of Representatives subcommittee.

He says the government needs to translate Constitutional protections to the "global, decentralised, networked environment of the Internet".

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03 Mar 00 | Americas
Hacker warns US authorities
20 Jan 00 | Americas
Hacker hits UN website
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