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FBI chides Hotmail and Yahoo! for sidestepping UK laws

'Why aren't ISPs required to comply with the laws of this country?'

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Poor controls and lax compliance with local laws by global hosting and webmail firms is hampering the fight against cybercrime, an FBI agent told a London conference yesterday. Ed Gibson, FBI special agent and assistant legal attache of the US Embassy in London, said international ISPs operating in the UK used their international presence as an excuse for not complying with British laws.

"With Hotmail and Yahoo! you can't get data using RIPA [the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act] because information is stored in the US," Gibson said. "Why aren't ISPs required to comply with the laws of this country?" Fraudulent scams frequently use webmail (the source of 80 per cent of global mail traffic, according to Gibson) so the lack of a workable code of practice is a significant obstacle for net investigators. Police can still get the information they need but the legal process can take between four to six months.

Gibson also took aim at hosting firms who sell online space to crooks - "no questions asked". ISPs ought to have a better idea of what their customers are doing online, he argued. "You've got companies with between 30k - 90k servers with no requirement to know their cusomer. The money laundering regs of the financial industry ought to be applied to ISPs," he said.

Gibson made his comments yesterday at a presentation at the Computer and Internet Crime Conference in London. ®

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