Klobuchar bill would fill holes in Internet crime law
By Leslie Brooks Suzukamo
lsuzukamo@pioneerpress.com
Posted: 04/19/2011 12:01:00 AM CDT

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Monday she will introduce a bill soon to try to make one of the latest and largest Internet trends — "cloud computing" — a little safer.

Cloud computing refers to the use of remote data centers to take over the task of computing from the personal computer. Social media sites like Facebook and YouTube are among the most popular cloud services, storing data and programs on data centers connected through "the cloud" of the Internet, as techies call it.

Businesses, too, increasingly are looking toward centralized cloud services like Google Docs to cut costs and boost productivity.

In a news conference Monday at a Best Buy store in Richfield, Dunn Bros. President Kim Plahn described how her chain of 85 coffee shops has adopted Google's gmail and Google Docs to reduce its technology costs.

But the movement of personal and business data to the cloud is attracting hackers who can exploit weaknesses in the laws, Klobuchar said Monday.

For instance, if a cloud service has millions of individual accounts and a hacker gets in and steals only a few dollars from each account, he can escape felony prosecution. The law looks at each account hacked for a felony, not the aggregate for the break-in, Klobuchar said.

"These criminals can figure these things out," said Klobuchar, a former Hennepin County attorney. "If there's a way to get around the law, they will gravitate toward it."

Security breaches cost businesses $1 trillion worldwide in 2008 in lost data and to repair the damage, according to security software maker McAfee. It's unknown how many breaches involved cloud computing, but with more data moving toward the cloud, the likelihood of more breaches involving cloud services, such as the recent breach of email marketer Epsilon, is not a stretch to imagine.
The Minnesota Democrat, who sits on the Senate's Commerce and Judiciary committees, said she is proposing the legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

The bill also encourages the U.S. government to negotiate with other countries to establish consistent and uniform laws governing online security for cloud services.

Uniform rules might open the playing field for cloud computing start-ups, said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade association for small to midsized information technology companies.

One of his members in the Netherlands, for instance, has an application that tracks cows in Luxembourg using sensors clipped to their ears. But Luxembourg requires the data to be stored in Luxembourg so it can keep an eye on it, Zuck said. Such restrictions make it expensive for start-ups to expand globally, he said.

Leslie Brooks Suzukamo can be reached at 651-228-5475.