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DOJ Asks Congress to Criminalize Using Pseudonyms, Lying Online

Ever knocked off a few years in your online profile? 15 years ago, I posted a profile picture which had me leaning on the bonnet of a BMW convertible (it was my friend’s). Yes, I was young and impressionable then.
According to a CNet report, the US Department of Justice is asking for amendments to current law to give prosecutors the ability to charge people “based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider.” It adds that limiting “prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service… would make it difficult or impossible to deter and address serious insider threats through prosecution”.more

The U.S. Department of Justice asked Congress to expand the federal law it relies on to prosecute computer crimes to cover more offenses and impose stronger penalties. The proposed changes will also make it possible to prosecute people for lying online.
Congress needs to revise the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and related legislation so that the DOJ can go after online criminals more effectively,Richard Downing , deputy section chief of the Computer Crimes division at the DOJ said at a Nov. 15 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. The proposed changes would improve cyber-security for Americans, critical infrastructure and government systems, he said.
The proposed changes to CFAA would expand the law’s scope by allowing law-enforcement officials to go after criminals trafficking user identity information other than passwords, such as biometric data and smart cards, Downing said. The CFAA was not as effective as it could be because penalties for online offenses were significantly weaker than penalties for comparable violations offline. Along with tougher penalties, the law needs to be updated to include attacks on computers other than those belonging to government and financial institutions, he said.
“If you criminalize the use of pseudonyms online, there are profound implications socially and for the First Amendment,” Jeff Schmidt, CEO of security consultancy JAS Global Advisors, told eWEEK.
The amendment has a lot to do with the difficulties of attribution, Schmidt said. When investigators are trying to discover who was at the computer during an incident, or who was responsible for a malicious act, not being able to get the perpetrator’s real name makes the investigation a bigger challenge, he said. He didn’t think the amendment was proposed to give the CFAA more power or teeth, but rather to help investigators solve crimes.MORE


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