DoJ cyber-crime site helps Feds make busts

Your tax dollars at work

The US Department of Justice launched a Web site devoted to electronic crime called cybercrime.gov on Monday. The site is maintained by the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to provide information on crimes related to the Internet, focusing on hackers and intellectual property violations. Sections cover such topics as protecting infrastructure, intellectual property, and the scourge of cryptography, which the Department still entertains hopes of defeating. "We anticipate that market forces will make key recovery products a de facto industry standard and thus preserve the balance of privacy and public safety that our Constitution embodies," the DoJ predicts. The text of a controversial DoJ report which we described here is also provided. Other areas include discussions of e-commerce issues, detailed guidance for snitches, and a common-sense FAQ for kids to surf the Web in relative safety. Sprouts are also warned not to get involved in hacking: "If you like computers, don't use your brains to hack systems, invade other people's privacy, and take away their networks. Hacking can get you in a whole lot more trouble than you think and is a completely creepy thing to do. If you're so smart, use that computer to do great things!" The site contains a substantial legal reference library and numerous handbooks and guidance documents, the chief purpose of which appears to be coaching law enforcement agents in what they can and can't get away with when pursuing evidence of an electronic crime. Some of it makes interesting reading. For example, we were intrigued by the open reference to monitoring the communications of a "target" for whom a search warrant has not yet been obtained: "If a target's screen is displaying evidence which agents reasonably believe to be in danger [of destruction], the 'exigent circumstances' doctrine would justify downloading the information before obtaining a warrant. For example, agents may know that the incriminating data is not actually stored on the suspect's machine, but is only temporarily on line from a second network storage site in another building, city, or district." Other advice speaks to preserving evidence, and to conducting warrantless searches which the courts will recognise. "Under the 'exigent circumstances' exception to the warrant requirement, agents can search without a warrant if the circumstances would cause a reasonable person to believe it to be necessary," the guidance explains. However, "courts have suppressed evidence where the officers had time to get a warrant but failed to do so. Some courts have even ruled that exigent circumstances did not exist if the law enforcement officers had time to obtain a warrant by telephone," it warns. We also learned that third-party authority to search a computer "rests rather on mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control for most purposes, so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-inhabitants has the right to permit the inspection in his own right and that the others have assumed the risk that one of their number might permit the common area to be searched." This means that your flatmate can authorise the Feds to search your computer. But there are always exceptions, and this one is worth noting: "Courts may honor claims to privacy where the defendant has taken some special steps to protect his personal effects from the scrutiny of others, and others lack ready access. The Fourth Circuit held that a mother's authority to permit police officers to inspect her 23-year-old son's room did not include his locked footlocker in the room." Translation for power users? If you encrypt your files, your flatmate's consent to search a computer which you both share does not extend to your protected data. Hence the constant DoJ harping on the need for cryptographic controls and "recovery products", we suppose. ® Related Stories Reno, FBI feast on bad network security Janet Reno proposes on-line police squad Congress clarifies spy warrant legislation Janet Reno dismisses central cyber-security agency Law enforcers the 'absolute worst people' for Net security - former Fed Crypto must be controlled -- FBI director How the FBI can r00t your hard drive FBI seeks to apply RICO laws to hackers FBI phone-snoop regs challenged by Net privacy groups US anti-smut bill may go too far Clinton's Big Plan against cyberterror US crypto plan aims to bug PCs

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