Computer crime is not limited to the United States. I frequently hear about computer crime issues from faraway places like Europe, Asia and Australia. Technology-related crimes are a worldwide problem.
The Information Age has arrived and, of necessity, it has helped to bring international law enforcement agencies closer together. Because of the popularity and international recognition of the Internet, computer crimes recognize no boundaries. The Internet has changed the way the world does business, and crime usually follows the money.
As recently as five years ago, the Internet was used primarily for communications between universities, research facilities and technology firms. Today, the Internet plays an important role in international commerce, a role that becomes more important as each day passes. Expensive long-distance phone calls have been replaced by e-mail, and advertising has expanded from the pages of magazines at the newsstand to Web pages.
This transformation has taken place quickly, and keeping up has been difficult for law enforcement agencies. In years past, state and local law enforcement agencies' concerns were limited to crimes committed in their jurisdictions. When a crime crossed state lines or international borders, federal law enforcement officials were called in to assist. But it doesn't work that way anymore.
Today, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies have to deal with crimes committed against their residents from locations throughout in the world. Financial frauds are committed daily over the Internet, and children are fair game for sexual predators in electronic chat rooms. The same individuals often exchange child pornography via e-mail and Internet news groups. Such crimes are more frequently than not investigated by local law enforcement agencies. As a result, when interstate or international boundaries are involved, cooperation between jurisdictions becomes vitally important.
Tools of the Bad Trade
In recent years, several new technologies have evolved into tools for criminals. In the old days, the crooks used computers to track their ill-gotten gains and to record their memoirs. A few brave hackers tried to crack the security on government computer networks. Now, state-of-the-art desktop publishing is one of the primary tools of counterfeiters. Stolen goods are fenced over the Internet. Computer records used in embezzlement are now destroyed when the crime gets close to discovery. Commercial software is pirated from manufacturers and sold as the genuine product in makeshift retail stores or from clandestine Web sites. Stolen or defective computer chips are also offered over the Internet.
Innovative new forensic software tools and methodologies are helping law enforcement agencies deal with online crime, but without the international cooperation of law enforcement agencies, technology-related crimes can be difficult or impossible to investigate.
I recently conducted a three-day training session for the Singapore Police Force. The topic was computer forensics, and after spending a week with its Computer Crime Unit (CCU), I quickly learned that the officers are dealing with the same types of problems we have in the United States. I also learned that cops are basically the same everywhere. The Singapore students were top-notch detectives who also knew a lot about computers and computer crime.
My training partner, Joe Enders, and I conducted the training session at the CCU office, where we found a number of similarities between computer crime units in the United States and in Singapore. However, in some ways, the Singapore police force is ahead of many U.S. law enforcement agencies, and could easily be used as a role model for the creation of a computer crime unit.
Singapore is small -- mostly just one city of 2 million residents. When the CCU is compared to U.S. law enforcement agencies of similar size, some interesting differences are noted. Obviously, differences exist between our laws and theirs, e.g., there are no privacy laws in Singapore. Its criminal-justice