According to recent reports from the Wall Street Journal and Computerworld, on June 30 the United States Secret Service, the Italian police and Italian postal service reached an agreement for the establishment of an international task force to fight cybercrime, including identity theft and computer hacking. Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, stated that cybercrime "is not a borderless crime and we believe there needs to be a reaction at an international level." While it may seem odd at first for the Secret Service, whose most obvious mission is to protect members of the U.S. government and visiting heads of state, to be involved in a fight against cybercrime, the agency actually has a dual mission: both to protect heads of state and "to safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy. Moreover, Congress has given the agency authority to investigate offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. sec. 1030(d).
The task force will be named the European Electronic Crime Task Force, will be based in Rome and, according to Italian police, will be open to other European countries. Its main focus will be to combine the resources and efforts of the United States and European Union nations in order to fortify cyber-defenses for government sites hosting sensitive data. The Italian Postal Service (and, presumably, other entities that decide to contribute) will exchange alerts with the Secret Service, monitor computer networks across Europe using Italian Postal Service software for threats, and coordinate to quickly respond to attacks. According to the articles, the Italian Postal Service now makes more money from banking and insurance services than from traditional sending of letters and packages. Given this shift in focus, it has developed a software that can review electronic monetary transfers for suspcious signs.
Ironically, and as discussed in more detail elsewhere, the announcement of this new task force came just a few days before the Secret Service’s website, along with the websites of the Treasury Department and Federal Trade Commission, were paralyzed due to cyberattacks, which government officials speculate originated from North Korea. Perhaps the Secret Service should have first established a task force with Asia?
- U.S. and Europe Jointly Establish Cyber-Crime Force, Jennifer Clark, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2009
- U.S. teams with Italy to fight cyber crime, Phillip Willan, Computerworld, June 30, 2009
- U.S. and South Korea Targeted in Ongoing Denial of Service Attacks, Aaron Wright, securityprivacyandthelaw.com, July 8, 2009
- 18 U.S.C. sec. 1030
- Mission Statement of the U.S. Secret Service