G8 Nations Vow to Fight Cyber Crime

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PARIS -- In the wake of the devastation wrought by the "I Love You" virus, the major industrial countries have vowed to cooperate more closely in fighting cyber crime and computer sabotage.


But after a three-day meeting here last month representatives of the G7 nations and Russia could not agree on any concrete measures to take against cyber crime beyond suggesting that the discussion continue at the G8 summit in Okinawa in July.


The communique issued after the meeting was long on rhetoric and short on action. "The G8 states are convinced that quicker or new solutions must be developed in order to battle cyber crime successfully," it said. "Government and industry must work more together in the future.'


The G8 also appealed to other countries to join the worldwide campaign against cyber crime. "No safe harbors should exist for those who misuse the new information technology."


But a U.S. proposal to create "cyber cops" able to operate on a worldwide basis could not gain enough support to be enacted. French interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said the prosecution of border-crossing "cyber pirates" was infringement of national sovereignty.


Instead, he suggested that Internet companies practice voluntary self-regulation on the Web and the conclusion of "framework" agreements among nations to stop cyber crime.


While France is not willing to act on a global basis, President Jacques Chirac suggested better Internet protection within the European Union, including use of Interpol to oversee Web activities.


France, he said, would submit such proposals next month when it takes over the rotating EU presidency. In principle, Chirac added, the Internet should be governed by "the rule of law" and be given a universal legal framework.


According to those who attended the meeting as representatives of private industry, the French proposal has a long way to go. Right now, an American said, nobody can really define cyber crime. The "I Love You" virus made people aware for the first time that hackers are criminals.


Differences in perceptions of cyber crime are sometimes stark. For instance, France wants to prosecute Yahoo because Nazi paraphernalia was auctioned on one of its sites. Selling Nazi propaganda is a crime in France but not in the United States.


No agreement was reached at the Paris conference on how to bring about cooperation between government and industry in assuring Internet safety or whether it should be in private or governmental hands.


The Internet Alliance, a consortium of high-tech firms including America Online, Microsoft and Deutsche Telekom, warned governments against relying on industry to discover criminal acts.


A statement issued at the conference stated that all industry can do is discover technical solutions to ward off virus attacks; therefore, governments should go after cyber pirates.


In Germany, meanwhile, government is working against hackers and other cyber pirates on two fronts. The Minister of the Interior, charged with police powers, is working on a new law to punish hackers more severely in the future.


Economics minister Werner Mueller called on German industry to do more to improve the security of the IT business and last month launched a "partnership for greater security on the Internet."


Founding members include German industrial, banking and trade associations as well as Deutsche Telekom and other major IT enterprises.


"Given the latest virus attacks," Mueller said in Berlin last month, "we need to strengthen our awareness campaign in partnership with industry and its associations. We have to make it clear to the public that IT safety is a central task of corporate top management.


"It is not a matter of sporadic illegal attacks by single individuals. The real danger stems from people with a more professional background who pose a threat to our entire economy."
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