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Remarks of Ambassador Thorne to the European Electronic Crimes Task Force

Ambassador Thorne participated in the European Electronic Crime Task Force Summit at Poste Italiane headquarters

Ambassador Thorne participated in the European Electronic Crime Task Force Summit at Poste Italiane headquarters

Ambassador Thorne takes questions from the media covering the European Crime Task Force Summit

Ambassador Thorne takes questions from the media covering the European Crime Task Force Summit

Rome, May 18, 2011

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good morning Mr. Sarmi, Director Apruzzese,  Assistant Director Smith and good morning to all of the participants of this European Electronic Crimes Task Force. I’d like to thank the task force, Mr. Sarmi, and Poste Italiane for inviting me to speak to you today and for the important work that the task force accomplishes. It is a pleasure to be here speaking before such an illustrious group of law enforcement and private sector representatives.

Cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the United States and Italy is one of the highlights of our strong bilateral partnership.  Through our close collaboration, we make both Americans and Italians safer and more secure.  The United States has made cybersecurity one of our top national security priorities.  We aggressively track and deter criminals online. We are investing in our nation’s cyber-security, both to prevent cyber-incidents and to lessen their impact.

This task force is an excellent example of how we also cooperate with other countries to fight transnational crime in cyber-space. The United States Government works with other nations to enhance our collective law enforcement capacities. We have ratified the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, which specifies steps countries must take to ensure that the internet is not misused by criminals and terrorists while still protecting the liberties of citizens.

As we know and have experienced, the strength of the Internet and of many new media technologies is their power to spread information and ideas, to connect people and markets, and to facilitate financial and commercial transactions, whether people live around the corner from each other or a continent away. These technologies are opening a new world of possibilities to us. We’ve seen social networks develop from a novel way to connect with friends to a tool used to communicate during crises and to raise millions of dollars for the relief of millions struck by disaster, as was the case with Haiti and Japan.  And of course we are all aware of the role the internet played in the Arab Spring and events we have seen in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  In the future, these new technologies and the growing capability and adaptability of the internet will likely offer us business and social tools that we haven’t even dreamed of today.

However, the internet also presents many complex security and legal challenges that we will have to work through in the coming years.  Governance of the internet is in some ways analogous to governance of the high seas.  Both are international spaces regulated by considerations of commerce, communications, national sovereignty and defense.  Just as maritime law evolved over time and through a series of public debates, developing norms of use for the internet will be an evolving effort.
Differences in approach towards digital media will continue to exist among countries.  And recognizing the ongoing debate between privacy and openness, this task force is the type of partnership needed to develop more sophisticated governing mechanisms of online activity, while ensuring freedom of communication and freedom of commerce.
This leads me to an issue of special interest: promoting the growth of the digital economy. A week ago, the U.S. Embassy and I hosted the Digital Economy Forum in Venice, underscoring how the digital economy, eCommerce and new media can be engines of growth for the United States, Italy, and Europe as a whole.  As digital technologies become ever more important in promoting innovation and economic growth, we will need even greater attention to develop mechanisms and procedures to protect the critical infrastructure needed for these technologies to flourish.  The U.S. and European economies are interrelated.  Our collaborative efforts to protect our economic and information infrastructures are essential to maintaining these sources of future growth.

Unfortunately, these same technologies are used by cyber criminals with increasing effectiveness to threaten our countries’ financial payment systems, disrupt our critical infrastructure and cause significant financial loss to our economies. The growing number of attacks on our cyber networks has become, in President Obama’s words, “one of the most serious economic and national security threats the United States faces.”

Thankfully we have organizations such as this European Electronic Crimes Task Force.  In my mind, one of the key reasons for the success of this Task Force is the active collaboration and close communication between law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, private sector companies, and academia from the United States, Italy, and all over Europe. The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace deployed by the U.S. highlights the role of public-private engagement; those of you working on this Task Force provide an excellent example of this strategy in action.

The European Cyber Crime Survey published by this task force in February notes that the number of cyber fraud attacks is rising sharply, but the average profit per attack is dropping, at least for certain types of fraud. Your report logically concludes that cyber criminals must raise the intensity and number of their attacks to maintain their profits. Statistics, and many of the criminal cases pursued by this task force, certainly support this key conclusion of your Survey. Whether investigating a Denial of Service attack, stopping credit card skimming operations, or combating cloned web sites and malware hacking attacks, the task force is more effective and successful because all of you have combined your resources.  Not only does the work of the Task Force serve to heighten awareness and increase best practices in cyber security, you represent an offensive capability, able to investigate, stop and arrest trans-national cyber criminals and hackers before they wreak havoc on our citizens and countries.

In the coming years I am certain that we will find more ways to work together. As computers play an ever-increasing role in our lives, the threats to our security and privacy posed by computer crime will also grow. I believe that these types of partnerships, like those of you on the Task Force are developing, will play a key role in readying us to respond to those threats.

Thank you for inviting me here today, and more importantly, thank you for the work that you do every day.

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