Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced a new campaign against crime on the Internet, called "Cyber Sweep." It is billed as the largest coordinated law enforcement operation conducted against on-line crime and expands an existing national campaign to a global effort.
Operation Cyber Sweep's national dimension was launched last month and has relied on cooperation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cyber Division, the Federal Trade Commission, The Postal Service, and Immigration and Justice Departments.
Mr. Ashcroft lists the operation's achievement so far, including more than 70 criminal indictments.
"Over the past seven weeks, this coordinated criminal investigation has netted more than 125 [cases], in which more than 125,000 victims lost more than $100 million," he said. "More than 350 targeted subjects are involved in this operation, resulting in 125 arrests already and convictions included in those arrests."
Mr. Ashcroft points out that the proliferation of computers and increased access to the Internet makes users more vulnerable to criminal activities, including fraudulent activities like bogus on-line investment clubs, copyright violations and identity theft.
The top U.S. law official says the campaign against cyber crime now has become international.
"Criminals may be half way around the world, but the Internet gets them close enough to pick the virtual pockets of consumers faster than it takes to send an e-mail," said John Ashcroft. "Second, on-line criminals are using more sophisticated techniques to conceal their true identities or locations from law enforcement. Law enforcement faces the challenge of adapting and out-thinking internet criminals and on-line abusers."
Mr. Ashcroft has announced increased cooperation with other governments, including Ghana and Nigeria, to track suspects.
Security experts are also raising concerns that terrorist networks are using the Internet to infiltrate and sabotage security and national infrastructures. They see the increased focus on cyber crimes as an essential element in the global campaign against terrorism.