U.S. attorney: A 'buggy whip moment' in fighting cyber crime

May 8, 2013

United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan faced tough questions from senators in Washington D.C. on Wednesday when she testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

Durkan, who was speaking as chair of the U.S. Justice Department Task Force on Cyber Crime, was asked why more isn't being done to stop thieves who use the Internet to steal everything from credit card numbers to trade secrets.

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., pointed out that given the extent of the problem, the number of indictments seems minimal. 

“In your testimony, Ms. Durkan, you talked about the importance of prosecution both as a deterrent and punishment and yet the level of legal activity doesn't seem all that great," he said.

Durkan responded that prosecuting cases can be difficult and complicated, particularly when the perpetrators are often overseas.

“To meet this threat, we will not be able to prosecute our way out of it. We have to have technology answers. We have to have the Department of Defense. We have to have the Department of State,” Durkan said.

Ranking member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested the Department of Justice and the FBI shift resources to address the new threats. Graham compared the situation to what happened in the 1920s and 1930s when the FBI concentrated on catching bank robbers like Bonnie and Clyde.

Durkan told the subcommittee that she considers this "a buggy whip moment."

"Things have changed so much that crime that used to happen on the street is now moving to online, including violent crime. But, it is a time where we have to allocate and realign ourselves," she said.