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Using Legal, Investigative, and Government Recourses

Legal recourses could be needed when the recovery starts or after capturing evidential data. But, consider that every situation is different and that legal action might not be necessary in each case, even when it looks imminent. That is why an organization must consult its own legal department before proceeding any further. The following figure shows a typical prosecution decision to be taken by a customer working with the servicing VCSIRT during the recovery process.

Figure 3FIGURE 3 Starting the Legal Procedures After an Incident

Most countries have no computer crime laws. This makes it difficult to prosecute a suspect who is moving between countries and/or committing crimes in multiple countries. Therefore, VCSIRTs must seek legal advice to reduce their legal exposure by defining the purpose and boundaries of the VCSIRT and, in certain cases, the internal CSIRT.

The following are some examples of items that should be reviewed by the security officers with representatives from the enterprise's legal department:

  • Written procedures that might cross company boundaries

  • Negative publicity for the enterprise, its customers, or business partners that can result from non-containment, delayed resolution, or mishandling of an incident

  • Downstream liability for the enterprise, its customers, vendors, or business partners

  • Secure distribution of information regarding an incident or affected system

  • Liabilities due to and during monitoring and follow-up of an ongoing incident

  • Liabilities due to disclosure of court orders, leaks of information from CSIRTs, or leaks of information through intrusions

  • Disclosure of information (for example, to the media, the competition, or third parties) that might be unnecessary or unauthorized

  • Requirements for legal evidence

  • What kinds of data can be collected under which circumstances (or what is allowed and what is prohibited under the local laws, such as the laws related to data protection and telephone communications)

Litigation Support and Cost

Suppose a customer has agreed to make a legal case out of the incident response investigation and costs are analyzed to see if the case makes economical sense. If it is deemed that it makes sense, the response team needs to find and organize a legal support team with the help of the enterprise's attorney or an external legal firm.

Litigation support is best described as the management of litigation cases through technology, primarily the organization of paper-based documents into an electronically organized database for review and reuse in production. The main functions of litigation support specialists are transcript management and trial preparation, along with managing the information database. Electronic discovery experts identify, collect, and analyze computer data from the compromised site.

Litigation and discovery support can be costly, so VCSIRTs must consider the cost because these services are usually outsourced. However, some of the litigation support specialists, IT specialists, and electronic discovery experts might be employees of the parent enterprise. In addition, some of their functions might overlap. However, in a high-profile case, you might need to find specialists in specific areas, which could result in higher costs. FIGURE 4 illustrates how the attorney should manage the investigation and interface with the incident response team.

Figure 4FIGURE 4 Management of Security Incident Legal Investigation

U.S. and International Laws of Interest

Legal advice can be sought at various points during a follow-up phase. For instance, if you intend to prosecute an intruder, you need to have complete, thorough, and convincing evidence that has been protected through a secure chain-of-custody procedure that tracks who has been involved in handling the evidence and where it has been stored. Law enforcement officials and your legal counsel are good sources for advice about how and when to collect and protect critical information. In addition, they can assist in interpreting application of current legislation (local to a particular country) that can be helpful at different junctures in the context of a specific incident.

TABLE 7 contains international and U.S. laws of significance to incident response and computer crime investigation personnel. To international readers, the U.S. laws are examples to pursue and compare to local laws for recourses you might have in the future. In addition, for transnational incident related issues, the laws provide guidance.

To U.S. residents, CSIRTs, and general readers, the laws can be very helpful when reporting security-related incidents to law enforcement, including violations of privacy legislation. You can find more information on these and other related laws at the http://www.usdoi.gov/criminal/cybercrime site.

TABLE 7 Security Incident Response Related Laws of Interest




European Convention on Cybercrime by the Council of Europe (COE), 2001

Europe and international

The COE is a recent attempt to codify international standards of cooperation when investigating computer crimes.

European Commission's Regulation (EC) 45/2001 of the European Parliament and Council, December 18, 2000


This regulation contains data privacy regulations (http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/dataprot/law/index.htm).

Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. 2510), 1986


The ECPA updated the Federal Wiretap Act to account for computers. This law protects against the unlawful interception of any wire communications (including email).

Economic Espionage Act (18 U.S.C 1831 and 1832), 1996


The EEA outlaws foreign espionage and the theft of trade secrets.

Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (18 U.S.C. 2028), 1998


This law makes it illegal to use interstate wire communication systems to commit a fraud to obtain money or property.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030), 1984


The CFAA, which has been updated several times, is the major federal law dealing with computer crimes (for example, fraud, extortion, and theft of financial information).

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Guidelines for Warning Banners


The DOJ released these guidelines for system administrators to help in the prosecution of computer crimes. It supports EEA and was primarily distributed by CERT/CC as Advisory 1992-19 "Keystroke Logging Banners."

HIPPA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996


HIPPA provides protection against illegal use of a personal medical information.

GLBA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act


Title V of the GLBA generally prohibits any financial institution, directly or indirectly, from sharing personal information about an individual with a nonaffiliated party unless the financial institution's privacy notice states otherwise.

COPPA, Children's Online Privacy Protection Act


COPPA, which became effective in April 2000, requires companies to implement safeguards when they collect marketing data online from children under 13.

Government Security and Investigative Resources

There is a huge community of incident responders belonging to various levels of government: regional, state, and national. The important points for best practices are as follows:

  • Government resources can be particularly useful when the customer is dealing with classified information or when the customer is an agency of the government.

  • Keep in mind that laws vary on every kind of crime from country to country. You need to determine the legal requirements of the country in which you are operating, especially the laws that pertain to collecting and protecting evidence, chain of custody, and sufficiency of evidence for prosecution. Then, you need to implement the necessary procedures to meet those requirements and weigh in all the alternatives to legal prosecution before proceeding.

  • As an initial step, the enterprise security and/or legal department should be contacted by the organization's security officers when local government investigative and law enforcement help is needed to assist the customer in your constituency.

  • Then the customer and/or you, as the servicing organization (or both together, as the predesigned SLA might dictate), will need to decide to whom to report the crime. Usually, it is better to deal with local or state authorities, if at all possible. For example, in the U.S., every state currently has laws against some sort of computer crime. If your local law enforcement believe the crime is more appropriately investigated by the federal government, they will suggest that you contact federal authorities. In some cases, local authorities might be more responsive, although they might not have complete jurisdiction for the crime your customer wants investigated.

  • You do not need to determine the jurisdiction on your own. If you believe that a law has been violated in the U.S., you can call the nearest U.S. Attorney's office and ask them whom to contact. In some cases, when it is determined by your local team that you have no other choice, you will need to pursue legal means to protect your team, organization, and your constituent. But, do not encourage or develop a false sense of security. In some circumstances, cooperating with law enforcement is not a sufficient shield from liabilities. Expert legal advice from your CSIRT's or organization's lawyer might be of great help.

  • Securing cyberspace and deterring, reducing, or eliminating security incidents is a difficult and strategic challenge. It requires a coordinated and focused effort from a global society, the federal governments, the state and local governments, the academic research organizations, and the private sector. Thus, maintaining contacts within the global community of incident response teams and keeping up with the policies, processes, and procedures of interaction with them is absolutely critical. FIRST, the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (http://www.first.org), is a good starting point for establishing outside contacts.

TABLE 8 contains a list of worldwide governmental resources.

TABLE 8 Worldwide Security Incident Resources




Australia and New Zealand

AusCERT (http://www.auscert.org.au/)

AusCERT is the national Computer Emergency Response Team for Australia and New Zealand and a leading CERT in the Asia and Pacific region. AusCERT maintains a worldwide recognized reputation and a trusted contact network of computer security experts. It also provides prevention, response, and mitigation strategies for members.


Brazilian National Research Network, Network Security CERT (http://www.rnp.br/cais_en/caisreferencias.html)

The mission of the Brazilian CERT is to register and follow up on security problems in the RNP backbone and PoPs, as well as to help identify invasions and repair the damages caused by invaders. The Brazilian CERT is also involved in publicizing information on preventive action regarding network security.


Canadian Computer Incident Response Coordination Centre (http://www.ocipep.gc.ca/index.asp)

Canadian CERT is part of the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness.



DND CIRT is part of the Department of National Defense.


EWA-Canada/Canadian Computer Emergency Response Team (http://www.cancert.ca/Home/Default.php)

CANCERT was set up for the Canadian government, business, and academic organizations.


CERT (http://www.cert.hr/)

Croatian CARNet is Croatia's computer emergency response team.


CERT Administration (http://www.certa.ssi.gouv.fr/)

CERT Administration is part of the French government.



CERT-Renater is part of the Ministry of Research and Education.


CERT-Bund (http://www.bsi.bund.de/certbund/)

CERT-Bund is part of the German government.


Internet Security Center, New Delhi

Beginning in July 2003, this center was developed by India's central information technology ministry with assistance from U.S. CERT/CC. The center seeks to prevent cyber attacks on key defense, business, and government organizations.


CERT Italiano (http://www.dico.unimi.it/)

Italian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IT) was founded in February 1994. The CERT-IT is a non-profit organization mainly supported by Dipartimento di Informatica e Comunicazione (DICO).


JPCERT (http://www.jpcert.or.jp/)

JPCERT serves the Internet community in Japan.


Computer Security Incident Response Team RU-CERT (http://www.cert.ru/Eng/)

RU-CERT serves the Russian Federation (.ru and part of .su).


SUNET CERT (http://www.cert.sunet.se/)

SUNET CERT serves Swedish universities with a direct SUNet connection.


Swedish IT Center (http://www.sitic.se/)

Swedish IT Center is a Swedish government agency.


Unified Incident Reporting and Alert Scheme (UNIRAS) (http://www.uniras.gov.uk/)

HM Government CERT/U.K. National Infrastructure Security Coordination Center (NISCC) serves the HM Government and specified sites within the .uk domain.


Security Service (http://www.mi5.gov.uk/)

MI5 is the U.K. defensive security intelligence agency.


Fight terrorism web site (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism/)

This information web site helps to fight terrorism (including cyber-terrorism) and contains useful information on fighting terrorism.


Electronic Crimes Task Forces (http://www.ectaskforce.org)

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act of October 2001 created Electronic Crimes Task Forces with the New York task force as the model. Regional task forces exist for the Bay Area, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Miami, New England, and New York (http://www.ecTaskForce.org/Regional_Locations.htm).


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The mission of the FBI is to investigate violations of federal laws and to protect the U.S. from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities, including cyber-terrorism.


FedCIRC (http://www.fedcirc.gov)

FedCIRC is an incident response resource that is available to the entire federal government through the General Services Agency.


Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability (http://www.ciac.org)

Although it principally serves the Department of Energy, the CIAC web site contains useful information for security and incident response, including one of the best virus hoax repositories.


National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) (http://www.nipc.gov)

NIPC is a Department of Justice clearing house and coordinator of computer crimes investigations.


U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crimes Section (http://www.cybercrime.gov)

Computer Crimes Section of the Department of Justice represents U.S. prosecutors of computer crimes.


CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University (http://www.cert.org)

CERT Coordination Center is a federally funded research and development center. It handles computer security incidents and vulnerabilities, publishes security alerts, researches changes in networked systems, and develops information and training to help improve security in systems, networks, and web sites.


Transportation Security Administration (TSA) (http://www.tsa.dot.gov)

TSA is responsible for protecting the U.S. transportation system and is charged with seeking excellence in transportation security through its people, processes, and technologies.


U.S. Secret Service (http://www.secretservice.gov)

The Secret Service is responsible for the enforcement of laws relating to counterfeiting of obligations and securities of the U.S. It investigates financial crimes and computer-based attacks on U.S. financial, banking, and telecommunication infrastructures.


Office of Homeland Security (http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland)

This office coordinates the efforts of the Executive branch of the U.S. Government to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks (physical and cyber). To locate Homeland Security directors at the state level, go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/contactmap.html


National Security Agency (http://www.nsa.gov)

N.S.A. coordinates, directs, and performs highly specialized activities to protect U.S. information systems and to produce foreign intelligence information.


Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO) (http://www.ciao.gov)

CIAO was started in response to a Presidential Directive (PDD-63).


President's Critical Infrastructure Board (http://www.cybersecurity.gov)

This board consists of 25 agencies. Its scope covers information systems for critical infrastructure, including emergency preparedness communication and physical assets that support such systems.

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