Computer Crime Research Center


Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft at the High Technology Crime Investigation Association 2004 International Training Conference

Date: September 28, 2004

(Note: The Attorney General often deviates from prepared remarks.)

Thank you, Mary [Horvath], for that introduction.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the 2004 International Training Conference. The High Technology Crime Investigation Association stands at an important crossroads in America-the place where technology intersects with law enforcement and the public sector intersects with the private industry. The discussions and new relationships forged at this conference are a valuable reminder that communication, cooperation and coordination are our most important weapons in the fight against cyber crime.

At the United States Department of Justice, we have made fighting cyber crime a top priority. Those of us in federal law enforcement look forward to using this opportunity to work with you to improve our investigative techniques, hone our prosecutorial tools, and strengthen the teamwork within the justice community.

I know that several prosecutors and investigators from the Department of Justice are members of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, and I am pleased that they are contributing to the important work being done here.

Over the past few decades, we have seen human ingenuity unleash new ideas, new products, and new ways of doing business. Freedom and innovation created the personal-computing revolution-a revolution that has extended the influence of the Internet beyond all known borders to expand commerce, increase trade, and deliver unimagined possibilities to new spheres of human aspiration.

But with this tremendous boon to economic growth and human potential, we have seen a small group of predators try to make cyberspace a place for crime and terrorism. It is the duty of the justice community to fight these predators. It is our privilege to uphold the rule of law and tend the foundations of justice that protect freedom and allow citizens to prosper.

I thank you for your role in this cause. You are bringing your expertise, knowledge, and experience with cutting-edge technology to the time-honored and noble task of defending justice.

As Commissioner Deborah Majoras of the Federal Trade Commission has said, the message from law enforcement to cyber criminals is clear, quote: "Cyberspace is not outer space. It makes no difference where you break the law; you will be found and you will be stopped."

We know from bitter experience that malicious code can invade the most advanced networks of our nation's most innovative companies, threatening our economic leadership and livelihood. We have seen worms and viruses attack our government's critical infrastructure, disrupting basic services and even potentially endangering national security. And with the increased use of the Internet and especially peer-to-peer networking, we have seen malicious code spread more quickly and infect more personal computers than ever before.

The cost these worms, viruses, and denial-of-service attacks impose on our nation reaches into the billions of dollars. Cyber crime also carries the added threat that what a single hacker can do can be replicated by terrorists seeking to strike at America.

At the Department of Justice, we have sought to work swiftly and decisively to anticipate the needs of law enforcement in the fight against cyber crime:

* The cornerstone of the Department's prosecutorial efforts is the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, a highly trained team of three dozen expert prosecutors who specialize in coordinating multi-district and international investigations of computer crime and intellectual property offenses.
* The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section works closely with the more than 220 Computer and Telecommunications Coordinators located in each of the 94 federal law enforcement districts to ensure that high-tech expertise is brought to computer-crime investigations.
* In addition, to address the high incidence of computer crimes, we established a cadre of specialized Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Units in strategic districts. Before he became director of the FBI, Robert Mueller was a pioneer in the fight against cyber crime, establishing the first such unit in San Francisco. Building on his foresight, we have expanded the number of Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Units to 13-with units in U.S. Attorneys' Offices across the country.
* All of these specialized federal prosecutors work closely with the FBI Cyber Division, the U.S. Secret Service, and other investigative agencies.

The FBI has made cyber crime-including fraud, hacking, child pornography, and intellectual property crime on the Internet-one of its top three enforcement priorities. To this end, the FBI has ensured there is a cyber expert in each of its 56 field offices, and in many of these offices the FBI has established special "cyber squads." Similarly, the U.S. Secret Service has established 15 Electronic Crime Task Forces across the country.

Using these resources and this expertise, we are working closely with our allies in law enforcement and in the private sector. And we have been seeing results.

Just a few weeks ago, I announced two operations: Operation Digital Gridlock and Operation Web Snare.

Operation Digital Gridlock was the first federal enforcement action ever taken against criminal copyright theft on peer-to-peer networks. Operation Web Snare was the largest and most successful collaborative law-enforcement operation ever conducted to prosecute online fraud, stop identity theft, and prevent other computer-related crimes.

Operation Web Snare yielded more than 160 investigations in which more than 150,000 victims lost more than $215 million. As a result of the operation, there were:

* more than 350 subjects of investigation;
* 103 arrests;
* 53 convictions;
* a total of 117 criminal complaints, indictments, and information's;
* and the execution of more than 140 search-and-seizure warrants.

This operation was a success because of the concerted efforts of numerous law enforcement partners. Just as computer networks offer cyber criminals opportunities to coordinate and clone each other's work, cyber crime demands that law enforcement share information, techniques, and resources to anticipate, outthink, and stop such crime.

The breadth of law enforcement and private sector cooperation in Operation Web Snare was remarkable. We received cooperation and aid from:

* 36 United States Attorneys' Offices,
* the Criminal Division of the Justice Department,
* 37 of the 56 FBI field divisions,
* 13 of the 18 Postal Inspection Service field divisions,
* the Federal Trade Commission,
* the United States Secret Service, and
* the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security.

The cases brought in this operation spanned many of the most significant forms of computer-related crime:

* Major online-fraud schemes, some defrauding tens of thousands of victims;
* Online identity theft and "phishing";
* Computer hacking; and
* Intellectual property crimes such as selling counterfeit software.

As evidenced in the types of crime targeted in Operation Web Snare, the Justice Department seeks to adapt to new trends in Internet crime and to deploy continually new prosecutorial tools.

There is no question that all these efforts to fight cyber crime require leadership from the Department of Justice, as we seek real and pioneering solutions to cyber crimes that only a few years ago were totally unknown. In this fight, we need, and we value, the aid and partnership of agents and officers from state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies. In Operation Web Snare, police and sheriff's deputies from Baltimore to San Jose made arrests and executed warrants.

In these types of cases, state and local prosecutors often bring criminal charges to complement and reinforce federal prosecutions. And federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors must share information, tactics, and leads continually.

For this reason, we have brought together forensic expertise from all levels of government through the creation and funding of five Regional Computer Forensic Laboratories in communities across the nation. And we plan on expanding their number very soon to a total of 13 laboratories. We recognize that prompt forensic analysis of computer evidence is critical to successful investigation and prosecution of crime. I know that many of you are forensic specialists. I thank you for your tireless work in the cause of justice.

Our efforts do not stop at the borders of America. In this age of sophisticated and transnational cyber crime, national security is often indivisible from international security. Whether the threat is cyber crime or cyber terrorism, we recognize international threats demand international responses. That is why we have strengthened our ties with other nations to improve the international response to critical infrastructure threats:

* The U.S. Department of Justice spearheaded efforts to work within the G-8 to ensure the world's eight major industrial economies have the strategies and policies in place to fight cyber crime.
* The Department's own Christopher Painter, who is a member of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, chairs the G-8 Subgroup on High-Tech Crime. Thanks to his hard...

Add comment  Email to a Friend

Copyright © 2001-2013 Computer Crime Research Center
CCRC logo