KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO ON
HIGH-TECH AND COMPUATE CRIME
Delivered at the Meeting of the P8 Senior
Experts' Group on
Transnational Organized Crime
Tuesday, January 21, 1997
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Thank you, Mark. I'm very touched
by that introduction and I hope I can live up to it. I want to
welcome you all to the United States for this first Plenary session
of 1997. I am very pleased to be with you today.
Not only is this meeting the first P8 meeting under the U.S.
Presidency, it is the first multilateral meeting of President
Clinton's second Administration.
As you know, yesterday the President took the oath of office
for his second term. His reelection brings with it the opportunity
for me to continue to work with international and domestic law
enforcement to bring security to the citizens of our countries,
and I consider this a very special privilege.
Besides the historic significance of this day, I want to
share with you the excitement and the enthusiasm I feel about
and toward the P8. I view this group like no other: The P8 countries
are a special group made up of the world's most powerful democracies.
We are global leaders in so many ways economically, technologically,
legally, and politically. Our small number allows us to act quickly,
and our unique membership offers an opportunity to lead the world
community that is rarely found in our history. And we are often
on the cutting edge for example in responding to international
terrorism, to international money laundering, to precursor chemicals.
This group has so much promise. Through your work, giant strides
are being made in several critical areas that have significant
No area of criminal activity is more on the cutting edge
or has greater global implications than crime involving technology
and computers. The importance of emerging technologies and the
significance of global computer networks cannot be overstated.
If properly developed and properly protected, they will be used
in virtually all personal communications, financial transactions,
information sharing, medical care, and a myriad of other applications.
It is, indeed, a very exciting time.
But while new technologies allow us to do things that were
previously impossible, they can also be misused in creative ways
to threaten public safety and national security. The same technologies
that facilitate lightningfast and ultrareliable transactions between
computers can be misused by hackers, that is, by those who access
computers without or in excess of authority. They can access
confidential information, steal economic data, disrupt telephone
networks, and interfere with the delivery of government and other
So while the information age holds great promise, law enforcement
has a responsibility to ensure that the users of networks are
not victimized in new ways.
To protect honest, law abiding citizens, law enforcement
must keep pace with advances in computer and telecommunications
technologies. We must work to ensure that the international law
enforcement community can keep pace with the criminals. This
is especially true in the case of computer offenses, which differ
from traditional crimes in a number of ways and, as a result,
create new and very challenging problems:
First, international computer crimes are easier 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.
Secondly, until recently, 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 a major
obstacle to solving and to prosecuting computer crimes.
Thirdly, law enforcement faces new procedural challenges,
many of which are impossible to address without international
consensus and cooperation. Consider, if you will, 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? How do we collect the
evidence and preserve it in a way that will be useful at trial?
Fourth, law enforcement will be faced with significant technical
challenges, such as the widespread use of encryption. In such
cases, we will have to find innovative and effective ways to preserve
government access to the plain text of encrypted data. We can
do this, in part, by supporting international efforts and national
policies which promote the development of the emerging key management
infrastructure and the use of products which allow for data recovery,
as well as by assisting each other in this very difficult area.
I think that these threats and these problems call for the
particular experience and the expertise of this group. While
important work in the high-tech area is being done under the auspices
of other organizations, one thing that sets the P8 apart from
other multilateral groups is its commonsense focus on practical
And the great thing about practical solutions is that they
usually produce real results. Since computer crime is so important
to all of our interests, there are several areas that I hope P8
Experts will address. First, we need adequate laws which will
allow us to prosecute hackers and other computer criminals. Second,
we need the technical ability to find these individuals, wherever
located. Third, we must develop legal procedures that permit
timely cooperation in the collection of evidence. And fourth,
we need to train law enforcement personnel and devote these technically
literate experts to the task at hand.
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 you know, 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. However, much work remains to be done in this area.
We need to reach a consensus as to which computer and technologyrelated
activities should be criminalized, and then commit to taking appropriate
domestic actions. This would also aid in providing the inevitable
legal assistance required to investigate and prosecute these cases.
I think it is also important to think about a global legal support
regime, which could be used to avoid ad hoc approaches to multiple
prosecutions. The unique nature of computer crimes and the unusual
problems that can result would make such a regime very useful.
Further, it would provide practical solutions as countries determine
the best place for a prosecution, the order of prosecutions in
a case where multiple countries are affected, and the most fair
way to vindicate interests when a crime affects a large number
When a hacker attacks, the first investigative step is to
locate the source of the attack. To do so requires tracing the
electronic trail from the victim back to the attacker. However,
in today's communications environment, one telecommunications
carrier does not carry a communication from end to end. As in
the example I mentioned before, a hacker's communication will
pass through an array of carriers, often in less than a second,
and tracing the electronic trail from victim back to attacker
may be difficult or impossible unless the hacker is actually online.
One practical solution that our technologically advanced
countries should pursue is maintaining access to source information
for each link in the chain of transmission. Some countries, including
the United States, have required that technical standards be adopted
which ensure that "call setup information" for normal
telephone calls is accessible, so that the source of the call
can be identified. I think it would be productive for P8 Experts
to consider whether all carriers should carry this kind of information,
whether other communications technologies should be similarly
designed, and what would be required for countries to share this
information with one another. This is a critical time for this
issue, as all of us are upgrading our telecommunications systems,
because it is far easier to build such requirements into new machines
rather than to retrofit existing equipment.
Finding a criminal who plies his craft through an array of
carriers becomes much more challenging when wireless communications
are used. In the past, when a perpetrator used a phone to commit
a crime, law enforcement could easily find out the exact location
that the call came from. They could find out the name of the
person who was being billed for the phone line, because the caller
would be physically attached to a telephone wire. But today,
mobile phones can allow an individual to commit crimes while roaming
around a city or even a country.
Even identifying the owner of a particular mobile phone may
be difficult, because mobile phones can be altered to transmit
phony identifying information. Here, as in most of the areas
we discuss, governments would be wellserved to work on this problem
with the help of industry. Our technical experts tell us that
there are practical solutions to the problems created by wireless
communications, such as encouraging the encryption of cellular
electronic identifiers. I hope that P8 Experts will work to see
that law enforcement is not overtaken by technology in this area,
but instead uses technology to thwart crime.
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 our countries. Up until this point, our regime
of mutual legal assistance has served our countries well. But
in a hacker case, the trail of evidence sometimes ends abruptly
and permanently as soon as the hacker goes offline. We should
consider whether mutual legal assistance treaties and letters
rogatory need to be supplemented with procedures that will facilitate
the immediate collection and review of evidence, or whether other
avenues should be explored. As mechanisms are developed, specially
trained lawyers within countries' Central Authorities may be necessary
to ensure rapid response to requests for assistance, particularly
while a hacker is online. Again, the experience and the expertise
of the P8 makes it wellsuited to tackle these very difficult problems.
Practical solutions are out there we must work together to find
One idea I believe worthy of consideration is formalizing
international expedited procedures that protect electronic evidence
on foreign soil from alteration or destruction. These could be
in the form of "preservation of evidence requests,"
or "protected seizures," whereby an international request
freezes a scene until a domestic judicial search mechanism can
be used. Just like technological advances are the product of
creativity and ingenuity, our legal work in this area must likewise
be imaginative and forwardleaning.
Also in the area of evidence collection, I encourage this
group to address the issues involved in analyzing electronic evidence
evidence which can be easily altered or destroyed. We must be
able to analyze this evidence in ways that preserve its integrity
and make its authenticity irrefutable, both for purposes of domestic
prosecution and international cooperation. The ease with which
digital evidence can be manipulated has already led to the development
of scientific protocols for searching computers and for analyzing
data. But we now must strive to ensure that such procedures are
None of the advances I have discussed are possible without
ensuring that law enforcement personnel are capable of addressing
high-tech crime by understanding two emerging and converging technologies
simultaneously: Computers and telecommunications. The complexity
of these technologies, and their constant and rapid change, suggest
that countries need to designate investigators and prosecutors
to receive appropriate and ongoing training. They, in turn, need
to work these cases on a fulltime basis, immersing themselves
in computerrelated investigations and prosecutions. Efforts along
these lines will dramatically expand enforcement capabilities
to solve high-tech crimes. I hope that when you return home, each
of you will strongly advocate devoting significant resources to
this area, and that we can share our expertise through international
training and coordination efforts.
The issues confronting us are very, very difficult, but we
can solve them. What will make it all come together in a cohesive
way is law enforcement's continued willingness to recognize the
new challenges that lay ahead in cyberspace. Whether the challenge
is protecting trade secret information, defending intellectual
property rights, prosecuting an international hacker, if we do
our job right, the people of the world will enjoy the benefits
of the information age without becoming its victims.
In closing, I pledge to you my full support in this very
critical area. I consider high-tech crime to be one of the most
serious issues demanding my attention, and I am doing everything
in my power to ensure that the United States actively responds
to these challenges. I have instructed Mark Richard to keep me
apprised of your work, and I would enjoy the opportunity to contact
my counterparts in your countries, if and when the need arises.
In fact, this past November, I discussed the threat of high-tech
crime with the British Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and he
enthusiastically pledged his support to P8 efforts in this area.
Likewise, our Deputy Attorney General had a similar meeting with
the German State Secretary of the Interior, Professor Doctor Kurt
Schelter, in October of last year. It's an old cliche, but united
we stand; divided we fall, and we look forward to working with
you in every way we can to address this very important and very
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