Electronic Design

International Treaty Battles Cybercrime

A committee acting under the direction of the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, has completed the final draft of a treaty that aims to aid countries in the fight against cybercrime. Drafted by the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), the Convention on Cyber-Crime establishes a minimum set of laws to combat high-tech crimes. These crimes include unauthorized access to a network, data interference, computer-related fraud and forgery, and digital copyright infringement.

This final draft is the outcome of four years of work by Council of Europe experts. The council currently comprises 43 European member nations. Experts from the U.S., Canada, Japan, and other countries also contributed to the treaty. Though not members of the Council of Europe, they hold observer status within the committee. Internet access providers, civil liberties organizations, and independent experts contributed to the text as well.

Once ratified by the leadership of the Council of Europe and signed by the member countries, this treaty will bind nations to establish this minimum set of laws. Additional aspects ensure surveillance powers for individual governments. Member nations are bound to aid each other in gathering evidence of cybercrimes and enforcing laws. Once approved, it will be the first international treaty describing penalties for criminal offenses committed through the use of computer networks and the Internet.

The treaty describes a wide range of procedural powers granted to individual nations, including the search of computer systems and interception. As defined in its preamble, the goal of the Convention on Cyber-Crime is to pursue "a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber-crime, inter alia by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation." CDPC also enhanced this treaty by making it illegal to spread racist and xenophobic propaganda through computer networks.

For details, visit www.coe.int.

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