“Back Doors” in Encrypted Technology for the Government Will Harm National Security and Privacy

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 8.32.43 AMBy Michael Huggins

In the wake of an international controversy over government surveillance, U.S. technology companies have developed end-to-end encryption for users who want to send information. End-to-end encryption gives the sender and the recipient decryption keys for a piece of data or a message. Without these decryption keys, law enforcement officials cannot access the data or the message. Even with lawfully authorized access to the information, end-to-end encryption may allow criminals to keep their communications secret from the government. Additionally, the United States and other nations have expressed concerns that encryption will provide secure communications to terrorist organizations.  Continue reading

Anti-Mafia Laws Make Their Presence Known Once Again

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.33.37 AMBy Eric Siebert

When we think about the word “mobster,” we often recall names such as Al Capone, and think of the time period of the early 20th century. We generally don’t associate the word “mobster” with hackers or the computer age. Recently, however, the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (or RICO) has made such an association. Originally envisioned as a tool to target gang leaders who avoided direct liability by ordering subordinates to commit crimes, RICO has recently been used to target cybercriminals engaged in racketeering offenses. Rather than being used to target leaders of mafia-type activities, the law is now being used to prosecute and impose stiffer penalties on online criminals who engage in organized crime through various virtual networks.

RICO, passed in 1970, allows for the imposition of criminal penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment (or more if the underlying crime carries a higher maximum penalty), or civil penalties amounting to triple the actual damages incurred. Private individuals may also bring claims against anyone who has participated, directly or indirectly, in racketeering activities. To establish a claim under RICO, according to one Supreme Court case, a defendant must have “conduct[ed] or participat[ed] in the conduct of an enterprise ‘through a pattern of racketeering activity.’” Put simply, a defendant must have acted as part of a group that commits a series of at least two acts that qualify as racketeering activities. A useful breakdown of these elements can be found here. Continue reading