World Cybercrime Treaty May Be Underway

Unconfirmed reports circulating on the Usenet suggest that the U.S. government is working with the European Union (EU), Japan, Canada and other countries, including South Africa, on a draft cybercrime treaty that would try to ban hacking and Internet eavesdropping utilities.

The move, if true, would be the first time that legislatures have started to tackle the issue of Internet security since the Internet was first developed.

While individual governments, most notably the U.S., have striven to introduce such legislation, the international nature of the Internet has caused problems enforcing such laws, Newsbytes notes.

However, a treaty between the U.S., the sprawling EU countries and others would make life a lot easier for enforcers, especially since a sizable portion of the Internet and its servers resides in the U.S. and EU territories.

Looking For Consensus

EU press officers declined comment on the reports, but one Newsbytes source said that a draft treaty would be subject to considerable public discussion and would need the agreement of all the countries concerned, if it were to succeed.

The Usenet reports — details of which can be found in Dutch at Cybercrime Treaty.pdf — suggest that the draft of the treaty aims to be completed by the end of 2000.

Reports suggest that there is no public draft available yet, but that letter from the Dutch minister of Justice to the Dutch parliament mentions some of the details under discussion. A note posted to the Politech mailing list said that the cybercrime treaty covers many aspects of the issue of Internet eavesdropping and surveillance.

Hackers Beware

The note translates the Dutch file as follows:

“Protection against so-called CIA-crimes (confidentiality, integrity and availability) of public and closed networks and systems: computer hacking, unauthorized eavesdropping, unauthorized changing or destroying of data (either stored or in transport). In discussion are also denial of service attacks to public and private networks and systems. This will probably not cover spam. The treaty will outlaw the production, making available or distribution of hardware and software tools to do the above-mentioned (hacking, denial of service, eavesdropping, etc.). The letter does not mention the possession of these tools.”

Need For National Legislation

The report also said that the treaty would outlaw sites with lists of passwords or codes that give unauthorized access to computer systems, noting that the treaty does not cover issues such as copyright related serials and cracks.

The report adds that the letter explicitly points out that as a result of this treaty countries that wish to implement digital wiretapping for the use of hacking tools by law enforcement need to implement that in their national legislation.

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