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The US Senate has passed a bill to strengthen the hands of federal prosecutors who fight computer crime by removing some of the more common hurdles in prosecuting online miscreants.

One provision would eliminate a requirement that prosecutors prove illegal activity has caused at least $5,000 in damage before they can bring charges of unauthorized computer access. The threshold often proves problematic in pursuing cyber crime because a single incident may spread the damage across hundreds of thousands of victims. Because the harm is so dispersed, it's often hard to meet the burden.

Under the new legislation, criminals could be charged with a felony if they install spyware or keystroke-monitoring software on 10 or more computers, no matter how much damage is caused. It also allows identity victims to seek restitution for the time they spend trying to restore their credit.

The bill would give the feds additional new powers. For the first time, they could pursue crimes when the miscreant and victim live in the same state. It also contains new provisions for charging cyber extortion.

The new provisions have been added to H.R. 5938, the so-called Former Vice President Protection Act.

Brian Krebs of the Security Fix blog has more about the measure here. ®

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