France Makes a First Move at G8 Net Summit

PARIS (05/16/2000) - France today set a timely example to the other G8 nations attending a conference in Paris on the subject of security and trust in cyberspace.

The Central Office to Fight IT-related Crime, set up to counter threats such as those posed by February's mass denial of service attacks or outbreaks of viruses such as Melissa or ILOVEYOU, will begin operations today, said French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, reading a message from the Prime Minister in his opening address to the conference. [See "France Sets Up Cybercrime Unit," May 16.]The conference, intended to promote a dialogue between public authorities and the private sector on security and trust in cyberspace, is being organized by the G8 group of nations (the seven most industrialized nations, plus Russia).

It is being co-chaired by France and Japan, and the other attending nations are Canada, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.

France plans to use the conference to propose international cooperation in a number of areas, according to a statement from the French Ministry of the Interior.

The first stage is to strengthen investigative powers. Here France sees an increased roll for Interpol, the international police investigation bureau, which has already set up offices in more than 40 countries. But it also wants more power for Europol, which links police forces within the European Union.

Europol's jurisdiction in IT matters is currently limited to offenses committed with the help of IT, but France wants this expanded to include offenses against computer systems and networks, not just with them.

Another field requiring attention, the French Ministry of the Interior said, is legislation. It wants to see greater harmonization in legislation across the globe so that cybercriminals have fewer avenues of escape. It will begin by setting its own house in order, creating the Central Office to Fight IT-related Crime and pursuing "the adaptation of its criminal law so that there are no gaps in its laws," according to the statement. During its forthcoming presidency of the European Union (which rotates to a different member state every six months) it plans to ask the other European member states to examine their own legislation with a view to the harmonization of the definition of offenses.

It will also encourage the setting of rules for ISPs (Internet service providers) and similar organizations on the storage of connection data to speed the tracking down of criminals. This encouragement could take the concrete form of "a specific (legislative) instrument for providing mutual legal assistance in criminal matters in this sphere," according to the statement.

The dialogue between public authorities and the private sector on security and trust in cyberspace bring together some 300 government and private sector representatives and runs through tomorrow at the Kleber Conference Centre in Paris, France. Further details can be found on the Web at http://www.diplomatie.fr/actual/evenements/cybercrim/.

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