Hendershot speaks on cyberspace crime at Thrower Symposium

Focusing on the "true crime problems in cyberspace" and "the implications of crime in today's emerging technology," Harold Hendershot, supervisory special agent for the Knoxville Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), delivered a paper co-authored by Kent Alexander, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia, and Scott Charney, chief of the computer crime unit at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., at the School of Law last week.

Hendershot's presentation was part of the 1996 Randolph W. Thrower Symposium on "Legal Issues in Cyberspace: Hazards on the Information Superhighway," which addressed issues including criminal activity in cyberspace, "e-cash" (digital money) and international currency transactions on the Internet, the application of constitutional principles in cyberspace, the effects of global communications networks on the governance of economic and social interactions, and the application of copyright law in cyberspace.

Hendershot's first example highlighted a potential crime scene. "I could take the imagery at any crime scene and change it through digital imagery," he said. He presented an example of two photo-graphs hanging side by side on a wall, the first depicting a body "with a gaping wound in the chest," a pistol across the room on the floor, and a note inscribed on the wall in the victim's blood: "I'll kill again, you'll never catch me." The second photograph shows a marked change: the same room, the same victim, but minus the chest wound and the gory note. Instead, this photograph shows "a small head wound from which blood trickled" and "the gun ... clutched in the victim's hand." Without more information, it may be impossible to tell which photograph was real and which one was created by rearranging binary digits, Hendershot said.

One of the problems in law enforcement, according to Hendershot, is application: "How do we take what we know works and apply it to rapidly changing technology?" While statutes attempt to protect people from information intrusions, often they "protect goods, not intangible property," he said.

Another dilemma for law enforcement officials, according to Hendershot, is that "we don't have enough people to watch all possible ports of entry. So the question becomes, how do we protect intellectual property?"

Hendershot recommended that people "get a hard copy of their credit report once a year" to thwart hackers from obtaining private information. "You can go to certain agencies and find out everyone's history," he said. "The United States is a prime target. In one Scandinavian country, a professor gave credit for students who could break into certain U.S. computer systems."

"Anyone who deals in this area will recommend further legislation," Hendershot said in response to a question asking what courts are doing concerning crime in cyberspace. "The laws are seven years behind the times. It's changing as quickly as Congress can handle it."

--Danielle Service

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