By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–The Alabama Digital Crimes Act passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 400 sponsored by Representative Paul DeMarco, (R-Homewood) is the companion to Senate Bill 356 carried in by Senator Cam Ward, (R-Alabaster). The Legislation is set to overhaul the criminal code in Alabama as it pertains to criminal activity committed online and through the internet.
“The last time Alabama passed a computer crime bill Ronald Reagan was president,” said DeMarco.
Alabama’s most recent computer crime bill was enacted in 1985 almost ten years before the internet was even commercially available.
In today’s cyber world computer crime encompasses a broad range of activities. Broadly, computer crimes are divided into two categories: crimes that target computers directly and crimes facilitated by computer networks or devices.
Crimes that primarily target computer networks or devices include:
■Malware (malicious code)
Crimes that use computer networks or devices to advance other ends include:
■Fraud and identity theft
The Alabama Digital Crimes Act seeks to address all these areas in a comprehensive was.
“The technology has swiftly bypassed our laws,” said DeMarco, “We are hoping to catch up with the bad guys who are trying to steal financial information and identity information in the State of Alabama.”
Working closely with the Alabama District Attorneys Association and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state, DeMarco and Ward believe they have a bill that will, give law enforcement the tools they need to fight cyber crimes in the state.
“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,” said Ward.
Ward went on to say, “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.”
DeMarco points out that a resent study showed that Alabama was twelfth in the Nation for identity theft.
It was also expressed that recently there has been a dramatic increase in cyber bullying and online predators stalking young children and teens.
After the vote to pass the bill out of committee Representative Howard Sanderson (R-Huntsville) commented, “ Paul, I wish you had brought this bill and it had been in effect before last Monday when I got hacked.”
The bill will now go to the full House for approval.
Some of the areas covered by the bill are as follows:
- 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 against the law 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 via the internet and crackdown 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.
- Allows 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.