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U.S. Congress to tighten the lid on cyber crime

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March 24, 2010

Now that President Barack Obama has succeeded in enacting his long awaited nationwide health plan, his administration can now focus on other important matters. Under a newly proposed bill introduced late yesterday in the U.S. Senate, foreign countries that turn a blind eye to cybercrime and hackers would lose U.S. financial assistance and other resources.

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The new bill is sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat of New York, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican of the state of Utah.

The newly proposed bill has the support of no less than 14 important IT companies and credit card firms, including Microsoft, IBM, HP, Dell, eBay, Amazon, Visa, American Express and Mastercard. It is also expected that other companies will soon follow suit.

This comes eleven months after senators introduced a separate bill last year that would establish a broad set of cybersecurity standards designed to bolster U.S. security on the Internet.

The bill, which was introduced by Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, has yet to make it out of the Senate Commerce Committee. Still, some observers think there's a good chance a new law will be enacted out of it.

The ICRCA (International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act) would require President Obama to identify countries of cyber concern and to plot a course to help each one get a lot tougher on cybercrime.

Countries that don't reach the newly proposed and prescribed benchmarks would face stiff economic penalties in the form of additional cuts to trade assistance grants, U.S. export dollars and foreign-direct investment funds.

A long-standing hurdle in the campaign to curb cybercrime has been shutting down the networks that cater to botnets and to arrest those cyber criminals who are located in those foreign countries.

Overall, ICRCA is intended to encourage countries to better cooperate with U.S. law enforcement officials. It would also require the President to issue a report every year that assesses the state of various countries' use of information and communications technologies in critical infrastructure, the amount of cybercrime based in each country and the effectiveness of each country's law enforcement in policing those crimes.

The two bills are intended to crack down on criminals who commit computer-based bank fraud, remote attacks on the networks of U.S.-based citizens and businesses, and other types of cybercrime.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office estimates that overall, U.S. businesses lost over $67 billion as a result of cyberattacks in 2006.

The President would be required to develop an action plan for any country of concern, although he could waive the requirement if the waiver was based on national interest.

The newly proposed bill would also require the Secretary of State to designate a senior official at the State Department to coordinate an international policy to promote better Internet security standards.

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Source: The U.S. Congress.

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