Lawyers go back to school for cybercrime

Citing a “serious lack” of attorney expertise in prosecuting cybercrime, New Jersey Prosecutor John Molinelli decided it was time for attorneys to go back to school. He states, “There was a serious lack of prosecuting attorneys – there’s probably a lack of attorneys, in general, who really know this area,” and decided to do something about it. Using a piece of the asset forfeiture regulations that allow a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of forfeited assets from drug dealers, money launderers and other criminals to be allocated for educational purposes, he set to work.

John, along with colleague Seton Hall University law professor David Opderbeck, decided to approach Rutgers School of Law-Newark about putting together what became the Cybersecurity Law Project, funded with the spoils of the forfeitures. The idea stuck.

While many members of the legal system are closet (or not-so-closet) techies, according to John “they don’t really know how to connect that to the policy and legal space, and part of that is because part of the policy and legal space is still evolving under our noses.”

Watching cybercrime legislation and corresponding education efforts these days is an exercise in hitting a fast-moving target. As senior legislators wrangle with effective ways to limit damage being meted out by cyber criminals, documented daily in news headlines, while also trying to keep step with angered constituents, they have their hands full. Similarly, education efforts that need to move fast are struggling to keep up.

Hopeful that the idea spreads out to other universities, Mr. Molinelli is happy to see progress. Many of the cyber realms of the future still need to be considered in the courts. For example, “How are the kinds of problems you might face in the brick-and-mortar world made different, amplified, made more difficult, by virtue of the cyber environment?”

While supporting (and evolving) case law for future cyber legal action plods through the court system, cybercrime races ahead. Expect there to be significant pressure on the courts for more expedient legal action against cybercrime. This should establish case law to be used in future prosecutions. But many of the current case law examples that attempt to extend into cyberspace fall short. Issues like mass-surveillance, privacy aspects of mobile devices and social networking practices, legal limits to tracking technologies, all have serious, compelling and far-reaching implications, now and in the future. Complex issues like these are inherently resistant to being fast-tracked through a court that has checks and balances. And maybe that is as it should be, these issues will be the subject of some of the defining legislation of the coming (and current) generation, so we have to get it right.

Author Cameron Camp, ESET

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