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Jeff Phillips reports from Washington
"The threat to this kind of commerce is one of the most critical facing the US"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 21:10 GMT
New strategy required to beat cyber-criminals

keyboard The FBI says it is fighting a losing battle


US law enforcement leaders said on Wednesday that computer attacks were one of the fastest-growing areas of crime and that continually updated technology made it nearly impossible to keep track of the problem.

Addressing a Senate subcommittee on Internet security, Attorney General Janet Reno said last week's attacks on major commercial websites showed how important it was for the United States to devise a co-ordinated strategy against cyber-crime.

"How we deal with cyber-crime is one of the most critical areas we face," said Reno.

Reno called for a five-year plan to deal with the issue and said computer equipment needed to be standardised as continually updated technology meant the costs of resolving the problem were extremely high.

"It is becoming obsolete practically before we get it installed and the costs can be astronomical," she said.

In addition, Reno said tougher penalties should be imposed on cyber-attackers to deter them from causing havoc on the internet.

FBI progress

Reno's testimony to the Senate subcommittee came a day after President Bill Clinton met computer executives at the White House to plot strategy to prevent future attacks such as last week's in which hackers disrupted key websites for several hours, causing millions of dollars in lost revenues.

Commenting on last week's attacks on sites such as Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon.Com, Reno said computer crime investigators were working around the clock to catch the perpetrators.

FBI Director Louis Freeh said he was pleased with progress made in the investigation, which was being conducted as wide afield as Germany and Canada.

He also explained that cyber-crime poses a significant threat to national and economic security in the United States and the FBI's caseload has increased dramatically in recent years.

The FBI said it opened 547 "computer-intrusion cases" in 1998 and the number more than doubled to 1,154 in 1999.

"In short, even though we have markedly improved our capabilities to fight cyber intrusions the problem is growing even faster and we are falling further behind," Freeh said.

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  Americas
Web attacks 'not electronic Pearl Harbor'
30 Jan 00 |  Business
NatWest mounts last-ditch defence
13 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Hacker inquiry leads to Germany
10 Feb 00 |  Business
Hunt for hackers draws a blank
12 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Hackers slam 'web vandals'
11 Feb 00 |  UK
A - Z: Hack attack

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