By: Gerri L. Elder
In the United States, identity theft crimes are about to get easier to prosecute and the penalties will be tougher, thanks to the passage of a new federal law.
The new law will also give identity fraud victims the right to file lawsuits against cyber criminals to attempt to recover the devastating financial losses they have suffered. Identity theft can cause years of credit headaches and financial problems for victims, sometimes resulting in them filing bankruptcy or missing out on job and housing opportunities.
IT Pro reported that the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act that was finally passed at the end of September 2008 after it was included in another bill geared towards protecting former U.S. Vice Presidents. The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act was originally introduced in 2007, but was never passed by the House.
In its current form and bundled with the other bill, the Act was passed by both the House and the Senate. It is expected to be signed into law by the president without hesitation.
The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act will eliminate the previous legal limitations on prosecuting cyber crimes. Currently, the prosecution of cyber crimes is only allowed in federal jurisdiction if the cyber criminal and the identity theft victim live in different states. The Act will allow hackers that have installed malware or spyware on more than ten computers to be federally prosecuted, even if all of the crime occurred in the same state.
The Act also eradicates the current $5,000 minimum limit to damages incurred due to unauthorized access to computer systems before criminal charges can be filed against a hacker. Identity theft victims will also be allowed to sue criminals convicted under the Act for the resulting damages of identity theft.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced this important bill to strike back against identity thieves. According to Leahy, the Act includes key anti-cyber crime provisions that will work to close the existing gaps in criminal law to keep up with technology and the ingenuity of cyber bandits.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) and Cyber Security Industry Alliance (CSIA), along with various other U.S. and international industry groups, supported the passage of the Act and say changes in federal law regarding cyber crimes have been needed for quite some time.
IT professionals praise legislators for passing the law and say that cyber criminals have taken advantage of the many loopholes in the weak current laws for far too long. This has resulted in a sharp rise in identity theft crimes over the past few years and financial devastation for many victims.
If this law is shown to be effective, other countries may consider passing similar laws against identity theft and cyber crimes.