Stronger cybersecurity bill passes House committee

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee today approved a bill that would significantly strengthen existing federal cybercrime law and provide law enforcement with increased enforcement tools.

Among the highlights of the Cybersecurity Enhancement and Data Protection Act of 2006, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc.:

      · The use of botnets would become a federal crime. Bots, hidden from the user and remotely controlled by a hacker, are considered by many security experts to be one of the fastest growing malware threats.

      · Cyber extortion would extend to criminals who threaten to access a protected computer and demand a promise from the victim. Existing law only prohibits criminals who threaten to damage a computer.

      · Convicted criminals who violate some portions of the would-be-law face up to 30 years in prison. Currently, a defendant must only forfeit proceeds.

The bill also offers authorities greater enforcement powers and resources. Included is a section that provides an additional $10 million annually to the Secret Service, FBI and Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes. The bill makes failing to report breaches to the FBI or Secret Service than involve at least 5,000 customers a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

In a statement, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) applauded today’s news, which awaits House and Senate consideration.

"Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized, and law enforcement officials are in a constant race against time," BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said. "The bill will help close the loopholes in criminal code, encourage early notification to law enforcement and provide the necessary tools to find and prosecute online criminals."

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