Department of Justice Seal
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
at the High Technology Crime Investigation Association
2004 International Training Conference
Washington, D.C.
September 13, 2004 - 1:00 p.m.

(Note: The Attorney General often deviates from prepared remarks.)

Thank you, Mary [Horvath], for that introduction.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the 2004 International Training Conference. The High Technology Crime Investigation Association stands at an important crossroads in America—the place where technology intersects with law enforcement and the public sector intersects with the private industry.

The discussions and new relationships forged at this conference are a valuable reminder that communication, cooperation and coordination are our most important weapons in the fight against cyber crime.

At the United States Department of Justice, we have made fighting cyber crime a top priority. Those of us in federal law enforcement look forward to using this opportunity to work with you to improve our investigative techniques, hone our prosecutorial tools, and strengthen the teamwork within the justice community.

I know that several prosecutors and investigators from the Department of Justice are members of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, and I am pleased that they are contributing to the important work being done here.

Over the past few decades, we have seen human ingenuity unleash new ideas, new products, and new ways of doing business. Freedom and innovation created the personal-computing revolution—a revolution that has extended the influence of the Internet beyond all known borders to expand commerce, increase trade, and deliver unimagined possibilities to new spheres of human aspiration.

But with this tremendous boon to economic growth and human potential, we have seen a small group of predators try to make cyberspace a place for crime and terrorism. It is the duty of the justice community to fight these predators. It is our privilege to uphold the rule of law and tend the foundations of justice that protect freedom and allow citizens to prosper.

I thank you for your role in this cause. You are bringing your expertise, knowledge, and experience with cutting-edge technology to the time-honored and noble task of defending justice.

As Commissioner Deborah Majoras of the Federal Trade Commission has said, the message from law enforcement to cyber criminals is clear, quote: “Cyberspace is not outer space. It makes no difference where you break the law; you will be found and you will be stopped.”

We know from bitter experience that malicious code can invade the most advanced networks of our nation’s most innovative companies, threatening our economic leadership and livelihood. We have seen worms and viruses attack our government’s critical infrastructure, disrupting basic services and even potentially endangering national security. And with the increased use of the Internet and especially peer-to-peer networking, we have seen malicious code spread more quickly and infect more personal computers than ever before.

The cost these worms, viruses, and denial-of-service attacks impose on our nation reaches into the billions of dollars. Cyber crime also carries the added threat that what a single hacker can do can be replicated by terrorists seeking to strike at America.

At the Department of Justice, we have sought to work swiftly and decisively to anticipate the needs of law enforcement in the fight against cyber crime:

The FBI has made cyber crime—including fraud, hacking, child pornography, and intellectual property crime on the Internet—one of its top three enforcement priorities. To this end, the FBI has ensured there is a cyber expert in each of its 56 field offices, and in many of these offices the FBI has established special “cyber squads.” Similarly, the U.S. Secret Service has established 15 Electronic Crime Task Forces across the country.

Using these resources and this expertise, we are working closely with our allies in law enforcement and in the private sector. And we have been seeing results.

Just a few weeks ago, I announced two operations: Operation Digital Gridlock and Operation Web Snare.

Operation Digital Gridlock was the first federal enforcement action ever taken against criminal copyright theft on peer-to-peer networks.

Operation Web Snare was the largest and most successful collaborative law-enforcement operation ever conducted to prosecute online fraud, stop identity theft, and prevent other computer-related crimes.

Operation Web Snare yielded more than 160 investigations in which more than 150,000 victims lost more than $215 million. As a result of the operation, there were:

This operation was a success because of the concerted efforts of numerous law enforcement partners. Just as computer networks offer cyber criminals opportunities to coordinate and clone each other’s work, cyber crime demands that law enforcement share information, techniques, and resources to anticipate, outthink, and stop such crime.

The breadth of law enforcement and private sector cooperation in Operation Web Snare was remarkable. We received cooperation and aid from:

The cases brought in this operation spanned many of the most significant forms of computer-related crime:

As evidenced in the types of crime targeted in Operation Web Snare, the Justice Department seeks to adapt to new trends in Internet crime and to deploy continually new prosecutorial tools.

There is no question that all these efforts to fight cyber crime require leadership from the Department of Justice, as we seek real and pioneering solutions to cyber crimes that only a few years ago were totally unknown. In this fight, we need, and we value, the aid and partnership of agents and officers from state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies. In Operation Web Snare, police and sheriff’s deputies from Baltimore to San Jose made arrests and executed warrants.

In these types of cases, state and local prosecutors often bring criminal charges to complement and reinforce federal prosecutions. And federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors must share information, tactics, and leads continually.

For this reason, we have brought together forensic expertise from all levels of government through the creation and funding of five Regional Computer Forensic Laboratories in communities across the nation. And we plan on expanding their number very soon to a total of 13 laboratories. We recognize that prompt forensic analysis of computer evidence is critical to successful investigation and prosecution of crime. I know that many of you are forensic specialists. I thank you for your tireless work in the cause of justice.

Our efforts do not stop at the borders of America. In this age of sophisticated and transnational cyber crime, national security is often indivisible from international security. Whether the threat is cyber crime or cyber terrorism, we recognize international threats demand international responses.

That is why we have strengthened our ties with other nations to improve the international response to critical infrastructure threats:

The importance of these relationships is clear in the case of the “Agobot” virus. This past May, German police arrested a man alleged to be principal creator and distributor of the “Agobot” virus, one of the most pervasive and disruptive viruses released on the Internet. U.S. law enforcement provided information that was instrumental to his arrest, and we are continuing to work both within the United States and in other countries to locate and arrest those whom we believe collaborated with the defendant on the development and release of “Agobot” and related viruses.

In addition, the Department is working closely with nations challenged particularly by Internet fraud. For instance, in response to the rising tide of Internet crime emanating from Nigeria and other West African nations, the President of Nigeria in 2002 established the Economic and Financial Crime Commission.

To strengthen our international cooperation, the FBI has assigned an agent to work exclusively with Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission.

In many of our most important operations, we have received invaluable cooperation from foreign officials. To take two examples:

Both men coordinated law enforcement efforts that resulted in remarkable successes. This international cooperation across so many fronts shows just how extensive and dedicated the law enforcement community is in the effort to combat Internet crime around the world.

Finally, it is clear that the ability of malicious code to spread quickly now requires private industry and individual citizens to take part in the defense of our critical infrastructure.

Justice Department attorneys and agents meet regularly with industry, trade groups, and state and local law enforcement to improve communication and coordination in our common cause to fight cyber crime.

In addition, we have reached out to citizens with the National White Collar Crime Center, which has played an invaluable role in this cause. The Center and the FBI run jointly the Internet Crime Complaint Center. In 2003, the Internet Crime Complaint Center referred more than 71,000 Internet-related fraud complaints to law enforcement. And in the first half of this year alone, the Center has already referred to law enforcement more than 42,000 Internet-related fraud complaints.

There is evidence that all of our collaborative efforts—including conferences such as the one here today—are working. Even though cyber crime attempts continue to pose a great challenge, we have shown that law enforcement can join forces to respond and reduce the damage caused by those attacks.

A recent survey conducted by the Computer Security Institute and the FBI indicates that fewer companies and government agencies are falling victim to computer crimes and that the monetary loss resulting from those crimes has fallen by 30 percent.

That same survey indicates, however, that we have work left to do. The monetary loss reported by roughly 300 survey respondents still surpassed $140 million, and the respondents reported an increase in losses resulting from viruses and denial-of-service attacks.

We have the privilege and opportunity to serve the cause of justice. I thank you for your commitment to this noble endeavor. This conference allows us to renew our dedication to this cause and forge new bonds of friendship and cooperation. Technology and innovation continue to better our lives and expand opportunity. It is up to us to extend the rule of law and justice to each new sphere of human endeavor.

With your help, I know we will succeed.

Thank you and God bless America.

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