Last month the Obama administration pressed Congress to pass stronger cybersecurity measures, including a doubling of the maximum sentence for potentially endangering national security to 20 years in prison.
While it remains to be seen if the proposal will become law, the question of how to fight cyber-crime has risen to the fore in recent weeks with a spate of high-profile, and sometimes, sophisticated, attacks.
The computer break-ins have targeted multinational companies and institutions, including Sony Corp, Citigroup and the International Monetary Fund. Sony faces dozens of lawsuits related to the theft of consumer data from its Playstation network.
Also, in the latest flurry of hack-ins, the loosely organized group Lulz Security said it broke into the Senate’s and CIA’s public websites, as well as Sony and other targets.
“It’s been a busy month,” said James Lewis, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
Lewis said “hacktivists,” who often break into websites to make a political point or generate publicity, made “a big mistake” in going after the public websites of the FBI and the CIA. “That bumps it up immediately,” he said. “That could make it a grudge match.”
But tackling cybercrime — as well as other kinds of cyberattacks — has often been complicated by the difficulty of determining who is responsible.