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National Information Infrastructure Protection Act, United States

National Information Infrastructure Protection Act, United States

The national information infrastructure is the collective computer and communication system that facilitates the operation of banks, businesses, schools, media, and the government. This infrastructure is crucial to the national economy and has expanded rapidly during the last decade. Because the network is computer based in the transmission of data, however, it is also vulnerable. In 1995, Congress passed the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act, a bill providing for increased security of federal and private computers, and Internet server systems.

The National Information Infrastructure Protection Act was created to further expand the protections granted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. Under the new act, protective measures were extended to computer systems used in foreign and interstate commerce and communication. The bill consolidated several older laws, including standing espionage laws, and labeled new crimes for stealing classified information from government computers.

Privacy was another major concern expressed in the act. It further criminalized the use of government computers to obtain confidential records, such as individual tax or medical records. Violators would be subject to prosecution under federal law, and charged with a separate crime for the use of the computer to hack and disperse sensitive documents. If these documents were obtained and dispersed for personal gain or profit, the crime becomes a felony. Convicted common security hackers were thus sentenced more leniently than those who prosecutors demonstrated acted with malicious intent. In its final provision, the act identified and criminalized the practice of computer blackmail, that is the ransoming of stolen information or the demand for access to an online account.

Not only did the bill cover computer fraud, but it also had implications for copyright law and corporate espionage. A copyright law amendment to the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act sought to grant jurisdiction over certain web contents to individual parties. The bill failed because it would have placed regulations on the Internet. The issue of ownership in cyberspace, however, remains an unclear legal question.

Since the passage of the act, computer crimes continued to rise in number, but not in severity. Incidences of viruses, stolen identities, and computer espionage peaked before the turn of the new millennium.

SEE ALSO

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986
Computer Hackers
Computer Hardware Security
Information Security (OIS), United States Office of
Internet Surveillance

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