scales of justiceKendall Coffey
Coffey Burlington LLP....

Future Crime

Analysis: The hidden cost of cybercrime

A few years ago a disgruntled employee for a large multinational automotive firm left the company -- but when he walked out the door, he also walked out with plans for a new car model under development on a cheap USB drive. When the plans were leaked, the cost to the company was an estimated $1 billion in lost sales and increased research and development costs, according to a security expert who worked on the case.  (link to full article..)

FBI partner attacked by hackers, passwords taken

LONDON – Nearly 180 passwords belonging to members of an Atlanta-based FBI partner organization have been stolen and leaked to the Internet, the group confirmed Sunday. The logins belonged to members of the local chapter of InfraGard, a public-private partnership devoted to sharing information about threats to U.S. physical and Internet infrastructure, the chapter's president told The Associated Press. "Someone did compromise the website," InfraGard Atlanta Members Alliance President Paul Farley said in a brief email exchange. "We do not at this time know how the attack occurred or the method used to reveal the passwords."  (link to full article...)

Robo-signers on YouTube

"The fact that delinquent borrowers face foreclosure is not the issue, but whether the documents used to get them out of their homes are signed by compromised witnesses, says Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami and author of the book "Foreclosures in Florida."

"You still need truthful witnesses. Robo-signers aren't. They are impostors," Coffey says. (Link to full article. )

Mega Case of Identity Theft Nets Nineteen Counts Of Guilty

A Miami resident faces 15-20 years in federal prison for stealing data from more than 40 million customers of leading retailers such as Sports Authority, Barnes and Nobles and OfficeMax. Prosecuted by the Boston U.S. Attorney’s office, Albert Gonzalez has signed a plea agreement which is to be presented to federal  court on September 11, 2009. In addition to this massive credit card data breach, he also faces charges from federal prosecutors in New Jersey for  a scheme targeting the Dave &  Buster’s restaurant chain..


Nibbling Away at Anonymous Cybel (One Byte at a Time)


The victim of a vicious three-year smear campaign culminating in threats against her life and those of her colleagues, Joan Lukey is seeking to amend the Communications Decency Act and Interstate Stalking Act to close what she perceives as "loopholes in civil and criminal law on what individuals can say online." The prominent trial attorney and First Amendment specialist suffered years of abuse from cyberstalker Leslie Sachs after she sued him for libel on behalf of a client, the novelist, Patricia Cornwall. (Link to full article.)

Megan Meier's MySpace Suicide

Interview with Kendall Coffey

HLN Prime News with Erica Hill / 1/9/08

ERICA HILL: A story we have been covering for some time and an important update on an on-line hoax that went horribly wrong – so wrong it led to the suicide of a 13-year old girl. But there were never any charges brought against the accused perpetrators. Now things may change. RICHELLE CAREY is joining us now with the latest on this discussion which is a wake-up for on-line criminals and in fact anybody who is using the internet  

RICHELLE CAREY: That’s the truth, Erica. This is a story which has made people mad – really mad. Let me take you back for just a second. Thirteen-year old Megan Meier died last year. She was absolutely distraught after she was rejected by a 16-year old boy she met through her MySpace website. Here’s where the story becomes unbelievable. The boy, turns out, was the mother of Megan’s former friend using a false on-line identity. The Missouri prosecutors declined to file charges against the woman because basically they felt there was nothing they could charge her with but now a Los Angeles grand jury is reportedly investigating the on-line hoax that led to Megan’s suicide. The L.A. Times reports the grand jury has already issued subpoenas and this is happening in Los Angeles because that is where MySpace is based.  

ERICA HILL: Okay, so then who specifically are they going after at this point? First I should say. 

RICHELLE CAREY: First they issued the subpoenas, according to the Times, to MySpace. They’ve been subpoenaed. They are going after the mother based on the idea of fraud. They are saying she defrauded MySpace because she set up a false account. That’s where they are starting right now according to the Times. 

ERICA HILL: Okay. What makes the feds think they can actually succeed here when the state has tried very, very hard.  

RICHELLE CAREY: The governor has set up a task force to see what they could do. We are going to put that question to our favorite legal mind former U.S. attorney, Kendall Coffey. 

KENDALL COFFEY: It was enacted in 2006, a new federal law that makes anonymous cyber-abuse a crime potentially prosecutable for two years hasn’t been tested by the courts yet, but if you ever wanted to see a case where that kind of law ought to apply, this might be the case. It’s come up before in the context, for example, of a very similar law that dealt with anonymous phone calls that were used to harass, to intimidate, to threaten. Those laws were largely validated. Again, it is unclear here but if you take words like abuse, if you take words like harass, if you take words like threats, and then you look at what was done to this little girl, I think the court is going to find that the First Amendment doesn’t protect that kind of conduct.  

ERICA HILL: The mother that set up this account, she is really having a tough time in her neighborhood. She’s basically been ostracized and even gotten death threats.

Is Anonymous Cyber Trash-Talking a Federal Crime? 

The Communications Act, at 47 U.S.C. Section 223(a)(1)(C) prohibits the making of telephone calls or the utilization of telecommunications devices “without disclosing [one’s] identity to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications.” Although not initially applied to Internet communications such as blogging, a more recent law has apparently extended the reach of the earlier law.

Several years ago, Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, H.R. 3402, titled “Preventing Cyberstalking” makes Section 223(a)(1)(C) applicable to the Internet. Section 113(a)(3) provides that Section 223(a)(1)(C) applies to “any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet.”

This untested law apparently makes it a federal crime for someone to anonymously and intentionally “annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person” through means including e-mail. Unidentified bloggers and e-mail senders who send abusive communications could be violators. Meanwhile, studies indicate that the many victims include children who are subjected to hurtful comments and messages. On the other hand, the substantial First Amendment concerns arise when you consider words like “annoy.”

This intriguing law is worth examining as we await a court case that may define its reach.

mouse globe "Computer crime, cybercrime, e-crime, hi-tech crime or electronic crime generally refers to criminal activity where a computer or network is the source, tool, target, or place of a crime. These categories are not exclusive and many activities can be characterized as falling in one or more category. Additionally, although the terms computer crime and cybercrime are more properly restricted to describing criminal activity in which the computer or network is a necessary part of the crime, these terms are also sometimes used to include traditional crimes, such as fraud, theft, blackmail, forgery, and embezzlement, in which computers or networks are used. As the use of computers has grown, computer crime has become more important." Wikipedia