Gene Fishel, assistant attorney general in the state of Virginias Attorney Generals office, works with businesses, IT professionals, citizens and law enforcement agencies to track down and prosecute computer criminals, in both state and federal courts.
And hes got some interesting stories to tell.
Fishel delivered the keynote address during Ziff Davis May 9 "Enterprise Applications Virtual Tradeshow," where he provided some prime examples of computer crime, and what IT shops can do about it (report it to state and federal agencies).
Because two of the United States Internet powerhouses are headquartered in Virginia—AOL and MCI—Fishel said that about 80 percent of the traffic on the Internet passes through Virginia at some point.
This little-known fact is actually what provides the Virginia Attorney Generals office with jurisdiction over a good many criminal computer crimes.
"It allows us as a state to test computer crime laws before they go federal," said Fishel.
"Spam is a good example of that. What we see is on the cutting edge of security threat—with e-mails asking for everything from free home mortgage to penny stock pickers to Shirley Temple memorabilia. Spam is flawed. It is insidious. Its become a great plague on the Internet."
The Virginia Attorney Generals office was the first in the nation to criminalize spam with its anti-spam law (theres a federal law in place now modeled on Virginias efforts).
Spam, as any IT shop knows, doesnt just affect end users having to clear out their inboxes; it also affects businesses, Fishel said.
He gave the example of a Jeremy Jaemes, a spammer who by 2003 was "wreaking havoc on the world," sending out 40 million to 50 million pieces of e-mail a day.
Fishels office traced Jaemes back through domain registrations, connectivity lines and credit cards.
When they indicted him, in late 2003, Jaemes had 16 T1 lines connected to the attic work room of a lovely rented house in a Raleigh, N.C., suburb, at a cost of about $45,000 a month to the local phone company.
But Jaemes was pulling in $20 million a month sending out spam.
"Ultimately what happened is he went to trial and a jury convicted him of computer trespassing and sentenced him to nine years in prison, which the judge upheld," said Fishel.
"The case is on appeal, and [Jaemes] is on house arrest while he awaits the appellate process."