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Saturday, 21 July, 2001, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
US targets cyber-crime
graphic of bombing a computer
Business spent $300bn fighting cyber-crime last year
The US Attorney General has announced the creation of 10 new special units to fight cyber-crime.

John Ashcroft said the new Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (Chip) units, to be based in cities across the USA from Los Angeles to New York, would be backed up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

You can lock up all the hackers you want, but it is not going to make the networks more secure

Jim Dempsey
Center for Democracy and Technology
Unpunished computer crime"impairs the ability of the United States of America to remain in its position of priority in leading the world in the digital age," he said.

Mr Ashcroft was speaking on the day that the White House web site was almost shut down by hackers.

And sceptics say the government is not up to the task of preventing cyber-crime - as illustrated by the latest attack on the White House site.

Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an organisation which fights for internet privacy, said, "There is a world of difference between web site vandalism and serious computer crime, like stealing money and stealing proprietary networks.

"You can lock up all the hackers you want, but it is not going to make the networks more secure."

Jail cells

Mr Dempsey believes there are far more hackers than jail cells.

People using an internet cafe
Hackers can operate from any computer
According to a study by the US Justice Department, 85% of US companies and federal agencies have been victims of hackers in the past year.

There will be 48 prosecutors working in the Chip units, who will be targeting hacking, "copyright and trademark violations, theft of trade secrets and economic espionage, fraud and other internet crimes."

Mr Ashcroft justified the move by quoting a study by accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers that said businesses spent $300 billion fighting hackers and computer viruses last year.

He was speaking in Silicon Valley after discussing security issues with executives of high-technology firms.

See also:

20 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
White House dodges web virus
05 May 01 | Americas
White House website attacked
14 Jul 01 | Americas
Hacking Las Vegas
27 Oct 00 | Business
Hackers hit Microsoft
11 Feb 00 | UK
A - Z: Hack attack
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