New law takes ``mega-bite'' out of crime

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2000

A new law will go after e-thieves who commit dotcrimes.

As the Internet has linked Alaska with other Alaskans and the rest of the world, crime has come with it. On Tuesday, a bill aimed at addressing the theft of digital identities and other illegal uses of computers became law with Gov. Tony Knowles' signature.

The measure was an amalgam of a bill by Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican, and a proposal from the Knowles administration.

``I believe that in the future, we will see a continued expansion of this kind of activity,'' Taylor said. ``With this law, I think we're taking a mega-bite out of crime myself.''

Taylor said be believes criminal behavior on the Internet will grow as use of the worldwide computer network increases. He said telephone scams have become common. In a few years, he said, Internet scams will be commonplace as well.

Anne Carpeneti, an assistant attorney general, said the new law goes after people who steal personal information over computer networks. It also upgrades the letters of the law, she said.

``We've had a few cases of identity theft,'' she said. ``The bill expands existing laws by modernizing existing terminology.''

A section of the new law makes it clear that digital child pornography is illegal exploitation. Another expands what kind of information, when taken, is considered theft. Rather than just credit card numbers, the taking of information that allows access to financial accounts and the like can be prosecuted.

Another new provision is the theft of a person's digital identity. Such a theft can result in disrupted finances and a damaged fiscal reputation.

Carpeneti said a woman in Ketchikan had sensitive information stolen from her in Seattle. A fake bank account was created and the thief bought a used car based on the information. That, said Carpeneti, can lead to a frustrating time repairing damaged credit and worrying if the thief will strike again.

Knowles sent a letter to House Speaker Brian Porter, an Anchorage Republican, on Monday lamenting an enforcement limitation written into the budget bill passed by the Legislature. In that budget, a request for an extra Alaska State Trooper to help with cybercrime issues was denied.

Taylor said another trooper would be nice, but the troopers can enforce the law with their existing complement.

Juneau District Attorney Rick Svobodny said computer crime's intrusion into Southeast Alaska has been limited. He recalled a few incidents that were brought to his attention. In one, a jilted woman posted her ex-beau's love letters on the Internet. In another, derogatory comments about a former lover were posted. Also, there was an incident of cyber-stalking, he said, where a man harassed a woman over the Internet, sending her more than 100 e-mail messages.

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