Rep. Bob Goodlatte finally got his computer fraud bill out of Congress and headed to the White House for President Bush's signature. Although the Virginia Republican has managed to win House approval for his bill three different times, the Senate has just as consistently failed top act on the legislation.
But Sept. 16, the House added the provisions of Goodlatte's bill to the Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008 and win approval from both the House and the Senate. Goodlatte's bill is known as the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates identity theft affects nine million Americans annually. Criminals use spyware, which is malicious software usually installed without a user's permission, to facilitate identity theft.
The bill amends the federal criminal code to expand interstate and foreign jurisdiction for prosecution of computer fraud offenses and imposes criminal and civil forfeitures of property used to commit computer fraud offenses. In addition, the legislation makes it a felony to damage 10 or more protected computers used by or for the federal government or a financial institution.
The legislation also expands the federal definition of cyber extortion to include a demand for money in relation to damage to a protected computer, where such damage was caused to facilitate the extortion. It also allows victims of identity theft to obtain restitution for time and money spent to restore credit and imposes a fine and imprisonment for installing spyware on a computer.
Goodlatte called the legislation a "good first step" in battling spyware purveyors and a "huge victory for consumers." "Just as we would expect a burglar to face criminal charges for invadiing a home and stealing property, we should expect the same from people who break into our computers to gather personal information," Goodlatte said in a statement.
The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) praised the passage of the legislation.
"The passing of this bill supports the interactive advertising industry's goal of increasing enforcement actions against bad actors whose criminal activity can tarnish the reputation of the online advertising industry," Mike Zaneis, the IAB's vice president of public policy, said in a statement. "IAB endorses the approach taken by Congress, which appropriately targets illegitimate conduct and provides law enforcement agencies with additional tools and resources to bring these criminals to justice."