November 26, 1997 9:45 AM PST

The Net's Finest: Law enforcement goes online

With the Information Age has come the era of the virtual crime: Criminals do their dirty work using the Internet, which gives them access to more victims and greater anonymity. Whether the crime of choice is hacking, credit card fraud, online threats, or child pornography, the birth of this new breed of criminal has created the need for law enforcement agencies to be as techno-savvy as the enemy.

At the same time, however, many Netizens are concerned about the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Customs Service, and other agencies stepping on their right to privacy in the name of law enforcement. The battle over strong encryption, for example, underscores a growing tension between federal agencies that say they want to protect citizens and the amount of privacy those citizens are willing to give up to get that protection.

This CNET special feature profiles the agents and agencies fighting crime online. It's a firsthand report on how law enforcement is adopting the technology to catch cybercriminals on their own turf, including the first behind-the-scenes account of a groundbreaking FBI investigation and arrest of a hacker who stole more than 100,000 credit card numbers.

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