The Administration’s Proposed Statutory Change Explained

In an effort to apprise the public of the government’s ongoing effort to combat cyber crime, the DOJ began a series on its blog explaining some of the legislative proposals made by President Obama in January.  Each blog post will focus on a specific aspect of the proposal, and will outline the reasons behind the proposed changes.

The first post highlighted what we should all know: Individuals, organized criminal networks, and nation states that engage in cyber crime pose a serious threat to American citizens, businesses, as well as the nation’s economy.  The post also revealed the difficulties of protecting Americans because legislation still has not adapted to new technologies as the adversaries have.  The proposed changes include adding more types of illegal activities to existing laws, mainly 18 U.S.C. § 1345 (“section 1345”), to broaden their scope.

The second blog post focuses on section 1345 which authorizes federal courts to issue injunctions to stop the commission of certain fraud crimes and illegal wiretapping.  Once the court issues the injunction, law enforcement can launch an operation to shut down the networks that the attacks are originating from.  But crimes included in section 1345 are limited, and those that are included do not encompass many of the illegal activities that can be carried out using botnets today, according to the second blog post.  In 2014, the GameOver Zeus botnet was taken down under authority given by section 1345.  Although many computers worldwide were being targeted and made victims, the criminals behind the attack also targeted banks and bank customers which is what triggered section 1345, according to the post.

According to the post, the Administration’s proposed statutory changes would add the operation of a botnet to the list of offenses that would be eligible for injunctive relief.  The Administration’s proposal would allow the DOJ to seek injunctive relief to shut down botnets that victimize 100 or more computers.  The post explains that the numerical threshold allows the DOJ to focus on “enjoining the creation, maintenance, operation, or use of a botnet.”

The Administration is focusing on the ability of law enforcement to shut down botnets once it has already victimized computers, but wouldn’t it be more effective to focus on preventing the creation of botnets in the firs place?  I propose that in addition to statutory changes, the Administration begin programs designed to educate the general public on cyber-hygiene.  Personal computers can easily become a part of a botnet.  According to the FBI, a user can simply click a link in an unsolicited email to become infected with malware.

The following is a list of the FBI’s tips on protecting your computer:

  • Keep antivirus software on your computer and smartphone updated.
  • Use strong passwords, and avoid using the same one for everything.
  • Only download software from trusted sites.
  • Do not open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Patches for you operating system should be automatically downloaded.

Together, the efforts of the government, private sector and an educated public will likely improve our nation’s cyber security.

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Authors

Untitled Document
Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a second year student at SU College of Law. Christopher is a non-traditional student, returning to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering and in addition to being a full-time student, Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a second year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic.Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

is a third year law student at Syracuse College of Law. She is also pursuing a Master of Arts in International Relations at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She currently serves as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a third year student at Syracuse College of Law. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She is a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was recently awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and as an extern in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. Full biography

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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