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New Justice Department unit to fight tech crimes, identity theft

December 14, 2011|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris has created a unit within the state Department of Justice that will fight technology crimes and identity theft.

The eCrimes Unit will "make sure that vulnerable populations are safe, that consumers are safe and that we allow good behavior to occur," Harris said at a news conference Tuesday in San Jose, chosen because of its location in the tech hub of Silicon Valley.

"Where there are predators and predatory practices, we want to ensure we have the skills and technology to go after them and that there is accountability and consequences," Harris said.

The eCrimes Unit, operational since August, will investigate and prosecute identity theft such as email phishing scams; fraudulent Internet auction sites; child exploitation and child pornography; theft of computer services and intellectual property; and other tech-related crimes.

Twenty investigators and attorneys have been assigned to the unit, and Harris said that number is expected to grow; she said she redistributed resources in her office to bolster the unit.

Before the creation of the unit, tech crimes were slow to get prosecuted because the jurisdiction wasn't clear, leading to ambiguity among counties over how cases should proceed, Harris said.

After the announcement state, law enforcement and tech executives lauded the move.

"Unfortunately the big challenge we've had in this industry has been not so much tracking the bad guys.... It's actually bringing them to justice," said Stuart McClure, worldwide chief technology officer at McAfee.

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