ACM Washington Update, Vol. 12.9 (October 7, 2008)

CONTENTS

[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Federal Investigators Criticize Voting Testing Lab Certification
[3] Congress Punts Again on Science Funding
[4] Congress Strengthens Cybercrime Enforcement
[5] Congress Targets Intellectual Property Infringers
[6] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at
http://www.acm.org/usacm/update/]


[1] NEWSLETTER HIGHLIGHTS

Congress has left for the year, wrapping up with dramatic conclusion –
passing a massive bailout of the financial sector — to an otherwise
unproductive year. As they left some tech issues were taken up and passed
into law. There is more detail on each item below, as well as on our weblog
at http://www.acm.org/usacm/weblog:

* Congress’ investigative arm — the Government Accountability Office –
criticized both the Election Assistance Commission and the National
Institute of Standards and Technology for poor standards and implementation
of their program to certify voting system test labs.

* Congress could not pass all of its regular appropriation bills for the
2009 fiscal year, passing a “continuing resolution”, which postpones funding
increases for key science agencies until at least March of next year.

* A new law will increase the scope and penalties of many cybercrimes,
including identity theft.

* Copyright infringement and counterfeiting will bring stiffer penalties
and more law enforcement attention under a new law signed by President Bush.


[2] FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS CRITICIZE VOTING TESTING LAB CERTIFICATION

Many of the concerns with electronic voting machines come into play long
before the machines are placed in local precincts. How the machines are
designed, built and tested can raise concerns about the effectiveness of
electronic voting systems. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)
released a report criticizing the voting system testing lab accreditation
program administered by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and
supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). You
can read the report online at:

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08770.pdf

The voting system testing lab accreditation program is intended to certify
the processes and standards of those laboratories that test voting systems.
The main thrust of the GAO criticism is that the supporting materials – the
standards and program manuals – have not adequately defined all the aspects
of an effective testing regime. What standards and practices have been put
in place are not sufficiently delineated to the point where they can be used
repeatedly and consistently. Now the GAO acknowledges that the EAC has
responded to the report by taking some necessary first steps, but more needs
to be done.


[3] CONGRESS PUNTS AGAIN ON SCIENCE FUNDING

In what is becoming the rule rather than the exception, Congress has again
failed to pass a budget prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year (which
started October 1st). What they did do, for the third consecutive year, is
pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. Unfortunately,
these continuing resolutions typically maintain the prior year’s funding
levels. This means that any changes proposed in a new budget, such as the
increases in science funding called for by the America COMPETES Act, are
postponed until Congress decides to pass a budget. Further, that key science
agencies — The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office
of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — will
be flat funded for yet another year. As noted by Peter Harsha of the
Computing Research Association, this outcome has been a possibility since
the fiscal year 2009 budget was proposed in February. You can read more of
Peter’s analysis at:

http://www.cra.org/govaffairs/blog/archives/000701.html


[4] CONGRESS STRENGTHENS CYBERCRIME ENFORCEMENT

Part of the challenge with prosecuting various cybercrimes is the narrow
scope of current law. For example, some identity theft is not covered under
current law, and some remedies for these crimes are not currently available
to victims. A new law signed by President Bush should fix those holes.

This law will institute federal civil and criminal penalties for various
cybercrimes, including cyberextortion and conspiracy to commit cybercrimes.
Penalties for existing federal cybercrimes will be added and/or
strengthened, including criminal forfeiture (where the guilty party must
forfeit both the proceeds of the crime and the equipment used to commit that
crime), and an expansion of restitution to include compensation for the time
spent recovering the stolen identity.

Two important changes cover unintentional holes in federal protection
against identity theft. The law would include intrastate (within the state)
cases of identity theft, as well as theft of an organization’s identity.
Neither kind of identity theft is currently covered under federal law.


[5] CONGRESS TARGETS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INFRINGERS

The content industry has been concerned with piracy of intellectual property
for years, especially as the Internet emerged as a means to facilitate it.
Seeking to deter such activity, Congress recently passed the PRO-IP Act,
legislation intended to fight copyright infringement and counterfeiting. It
should be signed by the President in October.

The bill was championed by content providers, with some objections from
non-profit and library groups, who would likely be caught up in the
implementation of the law. Their opposition was likely a major influence on
removing parts of the legislation that would have obligated the Attorney
General to handle civil enforcement of copyright violations, something
traditionally left to private parties.

The bill primarily increases penalties for copyright infringement and
copyright counterfeiting (this would include penalties for trafficking in
counterfeit goods). Some violations now have criminal penalties, including
forfeiture, and other crimes have been elevated to felonies. Additionally,
the bill establishes an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)
within the Executive Office of the President. The IPEC will develop a Joint
Strategic Plan for IP enforcement and chair an interagency intellectual
property enforcement advisory group. Other provisions allow for federal
grants to support local law enforcement and other work to improve the
tracking and enforcement of copyright piracy.


[6] ABOUT USACM

USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing
Machinery (ACM). With over 88,000 members, ACM is the world’s largest
educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers
and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the
field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective
voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and
recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of
its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career
development, and professional networking.

USACM acts as the focal point for ACM’s interaction with the U.S. Congress
and government organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers
on legislative and regulatory matters of concern to the computing community.

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:

http://www.acm.org/usacm/about.html


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