Washington — Emphasizing that no nation or government can combat cybercrime alone, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged greater international cooperation in developing a global strategy to fight a variety of Internet- and technology-based crimes at the Singapore Academy of Law in Singapore July 19.
“In this new era of seamless commerce and instant communication, we’ve seen businesses prosper and innovation thrive unlike ever before. But the cutting-edge technologies that we now rely on have also created new vulnerabilities,” he said. “And a growing number of criminals are actively seeking to exploit them in ways that can inflict significant, lasting harm on innovators, consumers and entire countries.”
Holder’s speech at the academy was part of a two-day stop in the Southeast Asian city-state that included meetings with his Singaporean counterpart and other government officials. During the trip, Minister for Law K. Shanmugam and Holder signed the Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) agreement, which increases information-sharing between the two governments to more effectively respond to transnational organized crime and terrorism. After Holder’s meetings with the minister for foreign affairs and the minister for law, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing the strong legal partnership between the United States and Singapore.
Greater international cooperation in fighting cybercrime is vital because cybercriminals can perpetrate crimes with devastating consequences against any country or company in the world, but unlike criminals on the street, cybercriminals are not deterred by the physical presence of law enforcement officials.
“Cybercrime knows no boundaries — attacks launched in Southeast Asia can disrupt financial systems in America; counterfeit products manufactured in China can be made available for sale to anyone on the Internet,” he said. “And cybercriminals can now operate beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement mechanisms — using technology to steal information and commit financial fraud half a world away, and with just a keystroke can mount cyber attacks against infrastructure networks that span numerous countries.”
A coordinated international response to cybercrime is also necessary to protect common values like personal privacy and personal freedom, Holder said. Some progress toward achieving this goal has already been made. The Department of Justice’s efforts to deepen bilateral engagement with such partners as Germany, Brazil, Hungary, Hong Kong, China and now Singapore in the past three years have yielded constructive dialogue on the development of a global strategy for cybercrime. The Justice Department has also increased outreach and exchange programs with allied countries’ legal officials, beefed up its international law enforcement efforts, participated in cyber or intellectual property enforcement training and educational programs, and assembled task forces for a variety of cyber-related crimes.
Holder praised the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime’s mutual legal assistance framework and provisions that give signatories the tools to fight cybercrime as “the most important of these international collaborations [on fighting cybercrime].” Acknowledging Japan’s ratification of the convention last month, he urged Singapore to follow suit but expressed optimism about measures against cybercrime already under way in the Southeast Asian city-state, such as the construction of the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation. Scheduled to open in 2014, the complex will enhance the global response to cybercrime by training law enforcement officials in police tactics, forensic analysis and database capabilities.
Nations must come to terms with the fact that cybercrime will continue to evolve and develop a comprehensive strategy to fight the shape-shifting threats in order to protect national security and civilians.
“Today, together, it’s time to ask: What can we do to confront the shared threats that we face? How can we ensure that our partnership and coordination remain an example for other nations around the world?” he said. “‘And perhaps most importantly, we must consider: How can we achieve these objectives while safeguarding civil liberties and honoring our democratic institutions?”
An appropriate balance between security and liberty must be achieved, Holder emphasized. Because democratic values are often a nation’s most valuable tools for ensuring peace and security in times of crisis, they cannot and must not be compromised in a country’s efforts to fight cybercrime.