State cyber crime laws need updating

Published 11:43am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

When most state laws dealing with computers were first written, the average Alabama family did not have a home computer. These laws focused on protecting the physical components of computers, and not the valuable personal information families and businesses use on a daily basis to access their bank accounts and other platforms.

When I was first elected to the state house, we did not have computers in every office, and many of our bills were still being manually inputted in a typing pool. Now, when I have changes necessary to legislation, I can send an email from my iPad with the changes highlighted — provided my daughter isn’t using it to play Angry Birds or Temple Run.

Senate Bill 356 is an important piece of legislation that will provide added protection for our families and businesses at risk of cyber criminals and Internet bullies.

This bill will put Alabama on the leading edge with remedies allowing law enforcement to obtain subpoenas and search warrants for information held by out-of-state providers such as Facebook and Twitter and network providers like AT&T and Verizon. The bill also allows for Alabama judges and prosecutors to issue warrants for information held by these specialized companies, and for Alabama companies to honor the same warrants coming from out of state law enforcement. As you know, many crimes are committed where the vital evidence in solving the crime involves information from computers – this law will aid our law enforcement in tracking down criminals throughout the country.

Many of the worst cyber crimes are committed by people seeking to take advantage of Alabama citizens. These crimes include industry terms such as “phishing” and “skimming,” but let’s call it what it is: criminals stealing your personal or business information, to steal your money, your identity or get credit cards issued on your accounts in their names. Many of the programs and devices used to commit these crimes have no legal use, and this bill lets our police and investigators seize and destroy this equipment.

The world we live in is enhanced by technology. But technology can also be disastrous. The reason I sponsored Senate Bill 356 is to make sure that while Alabama is becoming more ingrained in our wired world, all of our citizens are protected against those who wish to do us harm.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.

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