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eCrime Unit

The eCrime Unit is a section in the Criminal Division of the Office of the Attorney General. The eCrime Unit is tasked primarily with investigating and prosecuting large scale identity theft and technology crimes with actual losses in excess of $50,000.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Victims come from all walks of life – from everyday people to well-known celebrities.

Children Online

Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that our children are smart, safe, and legal online. Start here for informational guides and educational resources for parents, educators and all of us.


Resources and tips for consumers, businesses and others on a wide range of privacy issues.

California is at the center of the digital revolution, and state residents are more connected – and empowered – than ever before. Yet even as technological innovation and advances bring us greater convenience, efficiency, and productivity, our expanding cyber world has created significant vulnerabilities. The Internet has opened a new frontier for an ever-changing variety of criminal activity, ranging from data breaches to privacy violations, malware, identity theft, cyber exploitation, and the predatory targeting of children on line.

The explosion of mobile devices has only intensified the threat of cybercrime. Most Californians now carry portable devices that are more sophisticated than we ever imagined just a decade ago. Downloadable applications can render us vulnerable to fraud, theft, and other privacy concerns, and mobile devices that are constantly connected to the Internet or local Wi–Fi networks face persistent security issues. The skyrocketing popoularity of social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, has also created new opportunities for cybercriminals.

Statistics show cybercrime incidents have risen steeply in recent years. Victimization can occur through scams, fraud, theft, or other malicious criminal activity, with perpetrators preying on unsecured Internet connecdtions, weak passwords or encryptions, apps that are vulnerable to exploitation, and flaws in mobile operating systems or other software.

Meanwhile, cyber exploitation -- the nonconsensual distribution or publication of intimate photos or videos online -- is claiming more and more victims everyday, the vast majority of them women and girls. Cyber exploitation is a serious crime that often results in significant harm to a victim's personal and professional life and physical safety.

Key Activities

The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the safety, welfare, and privacy of the state's people and businesses, and Attorney General Harris has undertaken multiple efforts to enhance Californians' cybersecurity and keep all residents -- particularly children -- safe on line. Efforts include the creation of special enforcement units focused on cybercrime and privacy protection, the establishment of a website to spread public awareness of the problem, and the sponsorship of legislation to strengthen consumer protections.

Cracking down on Cyber Exploitation

In January 2015, Attorney General Harris convened a task force of 50 major technology companies (including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter), victims’ advocates, and legislative and law enforcement leaders to fight cyber exploitation, the criminal act of posting intimate photos or videos online without the consent of the individual. The task force was charged with the development of a cyber exploitation best practice guide for the technology industry, training and materials to equip California law enforcement with the tools necessary to respond to these crimes, and education and prevention strategies that generate continued public awareness and improve public safety.

After nine months of work, the task force announced the launch of a new, first-of-its kind resource hub providing helpful tools for victims, the technology industry, and law enforcement agencies. The site includes information graphics detailing steps individuals can take if they have been victims of cyber exploitation and includes the first-ever comprehensive collection of major technology platforms’ privacy policies and links to report improper use of intimate images and how to have them removed from social media sites and online search engines. Its launch was accompanied by a digital campaign, using the hashtag #EndCyberExploitation, to raise awareness of the crime and connect victims with additional resources.

The website's unveiling came during Cyber Security Awareness Month. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), a partner in the working group, more than 90% of victims of cyber exploitation are women and girls. In CCRI’s survey of cyber exploitation victims, 51% reported having suicidal thoughts.

In tandem with the anti-cyber exploitation initiative, Attorney General Harris issued a Law Enforcement Bulletin instructing all California law enforcement agencies on how to use and enforce new and existing laws related to cyber exploitation crimes. The Attorney General’s office also developed a Frequently Asked Questions list and one-page cyber exploitation guide for law enforcement. Both of these tools are accessible online at the OAG’s Cyber Exploitation website and POST’s website: https://www.post.ca.gov/cyber-exploitation.aspx

In 2015, the DOJ obtained the first successful prosecution of a cyber exploitation operator in the U.S. Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by ten years of supervised release for his operation of a cyber exploitation website that allowed the anonymous, public posting of intimate photos accompanied by personal identifying information of individuals without their consent.

Also in 2015, Casey E. Meyering pleaded no contest to extortion and conspiracy for his operation of a cyber exploitation website that posted stolen personal images of individuals without their consent and was sentenced to three years in prison. Charles Evens, who orchestrated a cyber exploitation hacking scheme and stole private images from victims’ accounts and sold them to another website, pleaded guilty to computer intrusion in June 2015 and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, concurrent with a federal prison term.

Attorney General Harris sponsored two bills targeting cyber exploitation in 2015 -- AB 1310 (Gatto, D-Glendale) and SB 676 (Cannella, R-Ceres). SB 676 extends the forfeiture provision for child pornography to cyber exploitation images, allowing law enforcement to remove these images from unauthorized possession. AB 1310 allows search warrants to be issued for crimes related to cyber exploitation and allows for the prosecution of cyber exploitation cases in the county where the victim resides or in the county where the images were posted. Both bills were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and became law Jan. 1, 2016.

eCrime Unit

Staffed with Department of Justice attorneys and investigators, the eCrime Unit is charged with identifying and prosecuting large-scale identity theft crimes, cyber crimes, and other crimes involving the use of technology. Established in December 2011, the unit reflects the reality that today’s criminals increasingly use the Internet, smartphones, and other digital devices to victimize people online and offline.

The eCrime Unit targets offenses that include a substantial technology component. Examples include:

• Identity theft – The Internet provides new ways for criminals to steal personal information and identities, whether through email phishing scams or trolling the Internet for personal information about others.

• Fraud committed using the Internet – Investigators target scams perpetrated via email and on Internet auction websites.

• Theft of computer components or services – The theft of computers or other electronic devices is often perpetrated by highly-organized gangs at manufacturing sites, storage facilities, and retail stores.

• Intellectual property crimes, such as counterfeiting or piracy – Large numbers of websites and online networks exist solely for the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, such as movies, music, and software.

• Child exploitation – Investigators work to disrupt online child pornography networks and arrest those who commit sex crimes against children using the Internet or social media.

Many of these crimes are multi-jurisdictional and are better suited for prosecution on a statewide level. The eCrime Unit, which includes attorneys and investigators who have spent years working on complex technology crimes, has made California a leader in using innovative law enforcement techniques to target cybercriminals who prey on people and businesses by using an electronic device, network or intellectual property.

In addition to its principal duties, the eCrime Unit:

  • provides investigative and prosecutorial support to the five California regional high-tech task forces funded through the High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution (HTTAP) Program Trust Fund

  • provides investigative, legal, and prosecutorial support for technology crime investigations to those rural counties that are not represented by a HTTAP-funded task force

  • provides coordination for out-of-state technology crime investigation requests

  • provides support for technology crime investigations initiated by other state agencies

  • provides legal support for state-operated digital forensic laboratories

  • develops and provides training for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and the public on the importance of strong information-security practices and evolving technology-related crime issues

Privacy Enforcement and Protection

Californians have a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy, and protecting their privacy rights is one of Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’s top priorities. In the 21st century, we share and store our most sensitive personal information on phones, computers and even in “the cloud.” Today more than ever, a strong privacy program is essential to the safety and welfare of the people of California and to our economy.

The Department of Justice’s Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit:

  • Enforces state and federal privacy laws.

  • Empowers Californians by showing them how to better control their personal information when they use innovative technologies.

  • Promotes smart online behavior by offering timely resources for consumers, parents and educators.

  • Works with companies on privacy trends and offers best practice guidance.

  • Advises the Attorney General on privacy matters.

- See more at: https://drupal.softsol.net/privacy#sthash.fSrCmfxC.dpuf

Californians have a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy, and protecting those privacy rights has become an increasingly challenging job for law enforcement in the 21st Century. We share and store our most sensitive personal information on phones, computers,  and even in “the cloud.” Today more than ever, a strong privacy program is essential to the safety and welfare of the people of California and to our economy.

In July 2012, Attorney General Harris created the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in the Department of Justice. The unit was designed to focus on protecting consumer and individual privacy through civil prosecution of state and federal privacy laws. Its mission is broad, covering the enforcement of laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes laws relating to cyber privacy, health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, government records, and data breaches.

By combining the various privacy functions of the Department of Justice into a single enforcement and education unit with privacy expertise, California has become better equipped to enforce state privacy laws and protect citizens’ privacy rights. Among its other specific duties, the unit:

  • Empowers Californians by showing them how to better control their personal information when they use innovative technologies.

  • Promotes smart online behavior by offering timely resources for consumers, parents and educators.

  • Works with companies on privacy trends and offers best practice guidance.

  • Advises the Attorney General on privacy matters.

Preventing Data Breaches

By compromising sensitive information such as payment card data, Social Security numbers and health records, data breaches and other privacy violations place the privacy, security, and economic wellbeing of businesses and consumers at risk. Increasingly, highly sophisticated criminal organizations and state-sponsored entities — located as far away as Russia, China, and Eastern Europe — are responsible for breaches.

Fortunately, the Golden State is at the forefront of government efforts to protect consumers and businesses from emerging cyber threats. In 2003, California was the first state to mandate data breach notifications, requiring businesses and state agencies to alert Californians when their personal information is exposed in a security breach. Since 2012, companies and state agencies subject to that law have been required to report any breach involving more than 500 Californians to the Office of the Attorney General.

In February 2016, Attorney General Harris reported that there were 657 data breaches in the state between 2012 and 2015, compromising more than 49 million records of Californians’ personal information. The most commonly compromised data were Social Security numbers, payment card data, and medical information, and the retail sector proved to be the most vulnerable industry, accounting for 24% of breaches and 42% of records breached during the period. The financial sector accounted for the second largest share of breaches at 18%, and Social Security numbers were the most common data breached in this sector.

As part of its campaign against cybercrime, the Attorney General's Office releases recommendations to help organizations strengthen encryption and take other steps to fortify its systems against breaches. Attorney General Harris also has made numerous recommendations that have led to state legislation to improve consumer protections and help California better defend itself against cybercrime.

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