Ward’s cyber crime bill advances

FROM STAFF REPORTS

A proposal by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, to overhaul the criminal code in Alabama as it pertains to criminal activity committed online and through the Internet, advanced out of the senate committee on Feb. 29.

The bill, known as the Alabama Digital Crime Act, was the result of work carried out by the Alabama District Attorneys Association and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Senate Bill 356 will update several areas of the existing Alabama Computer Crime Act, which Ward said is outdated.  If passed, the bill would:

­– Increase the penalty for computer tampering depending on the monetary value of the crime committed.

-– Create a new criminal penalty for using devices known as “skimming devices” which are used to steal information from credit cards and can re-encode that information to credit cards used by criminals.

– Make it illegal to “phish,” which is using the Internet to deceive, induce or fraudulently cause a person to provide confidential, identifying information, which is later used for fraudulent purposes.

– Expand the traditional harassment law to include threats made over the Internet and crack down on cyber-stalking, which can include violation of a restraining order via an electronic communication.

– Allow for the enforcement by subpoena and search warrant to obtain stored electronic communications from our of state service providers such as popular social media sites where cyber-harassment can occur.

– Allow for a procedure to seize computer equipment that has been used to carry out a criminal offense under this act. Currently under Alabama law there is no provision to allow for the seizure of a computer used to commit a crime, so valuable evidence that can be used in a criminal case is lost.

“I believe that modern day technology has caused a proliferation in online crimes via the Internet. It is time for us to start using 21st century tools to fight 21st century crimes,” Ward said. “Whether these criminals use a gun or a computer as their tool, their theft and destruction leaves a great financial and psychological impact on our society.”