Waseda on cutting edge of cybercrime

by Angela Jeffs

Pauline Reich is as smart as she looks in black with a string of pearls. A late starter in some respects — she did not graduate as a lawyer until she was almost 40 — she’s making up for lost time as a pioneer in the field of cybercrime.

Every day, she says, viruses and scams are unleashed on an unsuspecting public. “My own computer is out of order. All I know is it suddenly went haywire.”

There is the possibility, of course, of sabotage. Not everyone is happy about the facility she helped open (with the blessing of the university where she teaches) in October last year : Tokyo’s Asia-Pacific Cybercrime and Internet Security Research Institute at Waseda University. “There are cybercriminals out there with a lot to lose — in the Netherlands, Albania and Russia especially but just about everywhere.”

Cybercrime and Internet security are growing issues as we increase our reliance on online resources. “Do you remember the movie ‘The Net’ made in 1995? I show it to my students, so that they can see how much of what was then a mix of sci-fi and prediction has come true.”

Reich’s goal is to help rectify the enormous lack of awareness of potential online problems. “Only recently I was in Hanoi to present an overview of information privacy issues relevant to the APEC region at an APEC Symposium on Information Privacy in E-Government and E-Commerce.”

International cooperation dates back to 2001, when the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention made news in Budapest. Agreement reached was a model for legislation, yet only a few countries outside Europe have signed or ratified it. This includes Japan.

“Japan has some legislation but has not passed all that is needed. The Philippines can be cited as an example of a country that had no legislation and what happened as a result. When the so-called ‘Love Bug’ virus struck at the turn of the millennium, for example, even though police knew who was responsible, they were unable to prosecute.”

Legal moves against Nigeria — home of the archetypal advanced fee scam fraud ( ‘I am the son of the late blah-de-blah’) — have failed “basically because the government has not passed necessary laws and does not have adequate resources.” The largest fraud ever committed by a Nigerian ring involved a Brazilian bank and one of its employees. Losing $242 million, the bank collapsed.

India was quick off the mark with legislation in place by 2000 to protect E-commerce, But it’s proved to be inadequate. “Right now the government is discussing amending the law, to toughen it up.”

The downside is that like the Internet, crime and criminals are borderless. “Law is national. The problem is global.” Group of Eight leaders do discuss the matter, and 24/7 points of contact for Internet security have been established in many countries, including Japan. ” But still we need multilateral treaties to gain cooperation across borders. “

Why law? She explains that her father had a well-developed sense of ethics. “My mother was more the business socialite type.” Qualifying to study at Hunter College High School in New York, then a school for gifted girls only, she progressed through City College to Princeton University where she was one of only 12 female students among 3,000 guys.

She studied Persian on a rare languages program, then switched to Japanese. “Wanting to be a diplomat, I came here first in 1968 and taught for two years from 1972-74, studying Japanese language and theater on a Japan Foundation Fellowship. “Again I found myself being sucked back into the teaching game.”

Returning home, and interested in civil rights and womens’ rights, she went back to school to study law, only to be wooed here again by Waseda, first as associate professor and then full professor. “I began teaching undergraduate and graduate level legal and business ethics and women and the law, but over the years became more and more interested in cyberlaw and e-commerce.”

Fiscal year 2000-2001 Reich took sabbatical leave, researching cyberlaw and cybercrime developments in various educational and legal institutions in Silicon Valley, Australia, and Israel.

“It became clear region to region that there were differing levels of knowledge and experience, ranging from countries who had developed curricula and institutes and those that had not done so yet. Realizing the need to spread knowledge and to create more collaborations between universities, we decided to found one of the few institutes in Japan at Waseda, which has strong programs in law, commerce, computer science, engineering and ICT.”

The aim of the institute which is now actively seeking corporate and international funding, is to provide an interdisciplinary and international environment for cutting edge research, publications, training and conferences to benefit law-related communities, IT-related communities, businesses, legislators and the general public.

As if Reich’s not busy enough, she contributed the Japan chapter to ‘Cybercrime and Jurisdiction: A Global Survey,” published in May and edited by Bert-Jaap Koops in the Netherlands and Professor Susan Brenner as part of a global team (TMC Asser Press, IT and Law series, The Hague).

She is also the ongoing general editor of “Cybercrime and Security,” a three-volume series for Oceana, a division of Oxford University Press. “I wrote the chapter on Advance Fee Fraud.”

Japan is late in getting into the fields of cybercrime and cyber-security compared to other developed countries. “This country needs curriculum and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Yet I’m constantly being told that my gender is against me to help effect any change here. Fortunately I receive moral support worldwide from really wonderful men and women in the field.”

There’s moral support also from her “kids” — students — whom she loves to mother (“I experience separation anxiety at the end of every year.”).