July 1, 2011

‘Cross-border Campaign’ Needed To Police Cyber Crime

The head of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday warned that the technical sophistication of cyber terrorists is inundating the world's ability to cope, and is calling for an accelerated cross-border campaign to combat cyber security threats.

Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of DHS, said the agency is increasingly recruiting local police forces to aid in tracking down extremists planning terrorists acts. She says the number of such "home-growns" is on the rise and DHS needs help in combating them.

"I have seen an increase in the number of violent extremists" inside the US, Napolitano said. "While the Internet has a lot of good things, it is also an accelerant" for extremists.

"Most countries don't even have a legal framework that really governs cyber. It is such a new phenomenon in that regard so the legal systems -- both domestic and international -- have not kept pace with the technological advances we have seen," Napolitano told Reuters.

"And that is just the plain fact of it. We need to accelerate that in response," she told reporters in Vienna.

Napolitano, speaking at the Vienna-based Organization for Safety and Cooperation in Europe, said there needs to be joint cooperation in battling international cyber crime, terrorism, and trafficking of drugs, weapons and people.

Prominent cyber attacks have recently been targeted against the International Monetary Fund, The Central Intelligence Agency and the US Senate, as well as Citigroup and Lockheed Martin.

Such attacks raise questions about the security of government and corporate computer networks and the ability of law systems to track down hackers.

"I would have to say that we are still at the nascent stage. There is no comprehensive international framework" for approaching the issue, she said. "We are all scrambling but we are scrambling with some of the best minds in the world and we are confident that from a technological point of view we are going to get to a satisfactory resolution of some of these difficult problems."

China last week denied there was any cyber warfare going on between it and the United States after weeks of friction over accusations that China may have launched a string of hacks against Lockheed Martin and other US military contractors, as well as efforts to gain access to Google email accounts of US officials and Chinese human rights activists.

Napolitano deferred questions about security concerns for Americans abroad to the US State Department. She said DHS would continue to operate "regardless of any budget debt ceiling."

Failure to raise the debt ceiling would complicate the US government's ability to finance its activities. Congress is locked in a budget showdown over government services, taxes and debt.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said yesterday that Congress has "no option" other than to approve an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.


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