Prosecuting international internet crime

With the explosive growth of the Internet worldwide, computer crimes increasingly are prone to have international dimensions. Some of the challenges faced by law enforcement on the international front include: harmonization of countries' criminal laws; locating and identifying perpetrators across borders; and securing electronic evidence of their crimes so that they may be brought to justice. Complex jurisdictional issues arise at each step.
International computer crimes are easy to commit. Hackers are not hampered by the existence of international boundaries, since information and property can be transmitted covertly via telephone and data networks. A hacker needs no passport and passes no checkpoints. He simply types a command to gain entry. And there is little need for manpower since a sole hacker, working alone, can effectively steal or erase as much information as he can read, or he can cause extensive damage to global networks.

Law enforcement faces new procedural challenges, many of which are impossible to address without international consensus and cooperation. Merely locating a hacker whose transmission passes from his computer to a local service provider, then through a telephone network, then crosses an ocean via satellite, and then passes through a university computer on its way to a corporate victim. To make matters worse, this hacker could be in his car, using wireless communications. How do we go about finding this individual?

When countries have inadequate legal structures to combat computer crimes, they provide safe havens for computer criminals, and they can create a major obstacle to obtaining international assistance in multijurisdictional cases.

As the globalization of computer networks continues, and as computer criminals become more sophisticated, law enforcement increasingly will need timely access to computer or telecommunications information in all countries. Up until this point, international regimes of mutual legal assistance have served countries well. But in a hacker case, the trail of evidence sometimes ends abruptly and permanently as soon as the hacker goes offline. Consideration is required as to whether international mutual legal assistance treaties and letters rogatory need to be supplemented with procedures that will facilitatethe immediate collection and review of evidence.

In 1990, the Council of Europe recommended that European nations adopt harmonious computer crime laws. As a result, several P8 countries have enacted new laws and joined international efforts to encourage other countries to enact or to strengthen their computer crime laws.
1. Computer crime has not received the emphasis that other international crimes have engendered. Even now, not all affected nations recognize the threat it poses to public safety or the need for international cooperation to effectively respond to the problem. Consequently, many countries have weak laws, or no laws, against computer hacking creating a major obstacle to solving and to prosecuting computer crimes.

2. There is an urgent need for negotiating international agreements as to how, when and to what extent search and seizure of computers and computer information should be permitted.

3. Investigation and prosecution of international high-tech crimes must be coordinated among all concerned States, regardless of where harm has occurred.

4. Legal systems should permit the preservation of and quick access to electronic data, which are often critical to the successful investigation of crime.

5. Mutual assistance regimes must ensure the timely gathering and exchange of evidence in cases involving international high-tech crime.

6. Forensic standards for retrieving and authenticating electronic data for use in criminal investigations and prosecutions must be developed and employed.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions