Virginia AG Forms Computer Crimes Unit

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The Virginia Attorney General's office established a Computer Crimes Strike Force earlier this month to crack down on Internet lawbreakers.

The development comes on the heels of Virginia's anti-spam law, which took effect July 1. Under the law, spamming -- sending bulk, unsolicited commercial e-mail -- is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Malicious spamming that causes more than $2,500 in losses for the victim is prosecuted as a felony.

Half of all Web-surfing Americans go online through companies in Virginia. Major ISPs in the state include America Online, based in Dulles, and PSINet and MCI WorldCom Co. subsidiary UUNet Technologies Inc., based in Fairfax.

The strike force can target illegal activities that go through a Virginia-based ISP, even if the activity originates outside the state, through a "long-arm statute," said Todd Reid, special assistant to the Virginia secretary of technology.

For example, anyone who sends unsolicited bulk e-mail through the facilities of a Virginia-based ISP is breaking Virginia law and is liable for prosecution.

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