Computer Crime Research Center


Study Gives States Poor Marks on Cyber Crime

Date: August 14, 2008

As cyber crime and e-commerce continue to boom, most states are failing to keep up with the increasingly sophisticated threats, according to a new study. Consumers could lose confidence in online shopping if attorneys general don't get more aggressive about prosecuting Internet fraud, the report stated.

In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission had 221,226 complaints of Internet fraud, nearly 16,000 more than it received the previous year. The report warns that those figures might understate the problem, given that consumers many times do not know that they have been targeted.

Examining the lists of Internet-related prosecutions brought by state attorneys general found in Cybercrime, the bimonthly newsletter of the National Association of Attorneys General, the report's authors found that the bulk of the cases involved child pornography or the sexual solicitation of minors.

"Many states have established special investigative units or task forces on child predators," they wrote. "Few states have devoted similar investigative resources toward cracking down on Internet fraud."

he issue of online child predators, always a splashy headline, recently got an official endorsement with the announcement from 49 states' attorneys general and MySpace of a joint task force to tackle the problem. Facebook later joined the initiative; Texas is the lone holdout.

The report (PDF), prepared by the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress and the policy-reform group Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), pointed out that a few states stand out for their aggressive stance on cyber crime, such as Washington and New York.

Still, the great majority of states are failing to respond to the new and emerging threats that are unique to the Internet.

"Online consumers are now at risk," Ari Schwartz, COO and vice president at the CDT, said in a statement about the report's findings. "Internet crime costs basically nothing to execute, can be highly lucrative and involves little risk of being caught and punished. We need all 50 state attorneys general focused on this problem."
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