Cybercrime and Punishment 3By Larry Downes | Posted 2007-03-06 Email Print
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Businesses partly foot the bill to battle cybercrime. And the cost is more than financial.Cybercrime is getting cheaper all the time, as shady characters sell tools to help criminals spam, phish, hack and crash. And a new treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate could wind up passing the costs of combating cybercrime directly to American businesses.
From an economic standpoint, when the cost of crime goes down, frequency goes up. How does the legal system fight back? One way is to increase enforcement and catch more people. But when it comes to cybercrime, no one really expects law enforcement to keep up technologically with criminalsit's an arms race the criminals keep winning. An alternative is to raise the penalties, in hopes of deterring criminals who weigh the benefits of committing their crimes against the risk of getting caught.
In that vein, in August the Senate ratified the Convention on Cybercrime, drafted by the Council of Europe with considerable input from the United States. So far, 43 nations have signed on. The Convention includes many sensible provisions aimed at unifying global computer-crime laws, and closes loopholes that make it possible for criminals to escape prosecution by locating their activities offshore.
But civil libertarians, along with leading telecommunications companies, strongly oppose the treaty. Civil libertarians are especially concerned about the sweeping authority given to participating countries to seize information from private parties as they investigate cybercrimes, even when the activity being investigated isn't a crime in the country where the data is located. If France is investigating a sale of Nazi memorabilia on eBay, the U.S. must cooperate, even though such transactions are not illegal in the U.S.