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California unveils new unit to fight cybercrime

New eCrime unit is tasked with investigating crimes such as identity theft, child pornography, and software piracy.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil

Along with being home to Silicon Valley, California is also an epicenter of cybercrime.

That led California Attorney General Kamala Harris to announce today the creation of a new state Justice Department unit to combat crimes that enlist technology.

The eCrime unit aims to "make sure that vulnerable populations are safe, that consumers are safe, and that we allow good behavior to occur," Harris said at a news conference in San Jose, Calif (see video of news conference below). "But where there are predators and predatory practices, we want to ensure we have the skills and technology to go after them and make sure there is accountability and consequence."

The unit, consisting of 20 investigators and prosecutors, is tasked with investigating crimes such as identity theft, child pornography, copyright violations, and software piracy. The unit, which has been operational since August, has filed charges in 20 cases and is investigating another 24 cases.

Before the unit's creation, Harris said, cybercrimes weren't always investigated or prosecuted fully due to confusion over jurisdiction.

California has the most identify theft complaints of any state, according to the Federal Trade Commission, with 10 of the top 25 metropolitan areas for identity theft-related consumer complaints in 2010. More than 1 million Californians become victims of identity theft every year and total losses in the state exceeded $46 million in 2010, according to a department statement.