Two North Carolina Internet service provider groups will have a discussion Thursday night with law enforcement officials from the state and federal governments to discuss Internet and computer-related crimes, and how Internet service providers need to band together and help stop such activity.

The e-NC Initiative, a group that is working to bring Internet access to residents living in rural or impoverished regions where the Internet isn’t accessible, is hosting the meeting. It coincides with the monthly gathering of the North Carolina Consortium of Internet Service Providers, a trade group that aims to bring leadership to the state’s ISPs.

Special Agent Hans Miller with the State Bureau of Investigation, who will be on the panel, says the discussion will focus on the different types of criminal activity that occur on the Internet, including the creation and unleashing of viruses aimed at taking down corporate networks, or even an ISP’s network, and cybercrimes that are committed against children.

“Cooperation among all of the Internet service providers in the state and law enforcement is essential,” Miller says. “There is no way to catch these criminal without everyone’s help. They know their networks and systems, and we don’t, but we can help teach them how to build a case against a criminal.”

Stephen Lane, president of the NCCISP, says he is heading up a team of six volunteers that is busy contacting every single ISP in the state trying to entice them to join his group, and that although the larger ISPs, such as Road Runner or Earthlink, have been invited the NCCISP is really targeting smaller, independent companies. Lane also serves as chief executive officer of his own ISP, Inteliport, which serves Northeast North Carolina.

“We can all become a resource for each other, leaving competition at the door,” Lane says. “The Internet needs to remain free of restrictions that allow people to use it for their enjoyment and criminal activities certainly inhibit that.”

Cybercrimes have been on the forefront of the minds of industry observers for some time, but attention to efforts across the nation increased following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. In the last few weeks federal officials have discussed possible terrorist attacks on some of the nation’s critical computer systems, such as those that operate the flow of electricity or air traffic control. Tonight’s meeting won’t focus on such dramatic crimes but will instead concentrate on what ISPs can do locally to cut of bandwidth from criminals.

Incidentally, there is a bill before Congress (H.R. 3482) that would increase penalties for Cybercrimes with punishments culminating in possible life sentences for crimes that result in death or harm to another person.

During the last year more than 100 cases of system intrusions and virus attacks have been reported to law enforcement officials, according to published reports. Miller says the criminals are hard to catch without the assistance of ISP operators because even if it can be proven that a specific activity originated from someone’s computer it is very easy for the operator of that computer to deny knowledge of the incident; many viruses making the rounds these days are spread via e-mail without the computer owner’s knowledge. Another issue with catching cybercrooks is that the nature of the Internet makes it multi-jurisdictional, and sometimes international in scope, making it difficult to prosecute.

There are resources currently available for company officials who wish to report a cybercrime. One organization, called InfraGuard, provides North Carolina Internet users with a secure, Web-based method of reporting intrusions. The Web site, located at, will walk businesses through the sign up process and provide them with access to secure law enforcement technology information.

Thursday’s meeting, which is being held at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center at 4021 Carya Drive in Raleigh, is slated to run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, or to register for the event, call (919)250-4314.