A group of chief technology officers (CTOs) from major software vendors on Thursday called on U.S. President George Bush’s administration to convene a national commission to address cybercrime and identification theft.

The 15 CTOs, whose companies are members of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) trade group, met with congressional and White House leaders to discuss issues that concern them, including cybercrime, patent reform and more federal funding for research.

The group asked Bush administration officials, including John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Phil Bond, undersecretary for technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce, to consider a cybercrime commission that would bring together computer users, lawmakers, enforcement officials and technology companies to talk about ways to fight ID theft and other online crime.

A commission could address a variety of solutions, including public education, new legislation and international treaties, the CTOs said during a press briefing. The national commission could raise the profile of cybercrime issues among lawmakers and consumers, said Chris Voice, vice president of technology at Entrust Inc., a security software vendor. “We don’t want to say the sky is falling, but we wanted to bring people together … and have a dialog,” he said.

Several members of BSA market cybersecurity products, and the CTOs said their companies have technological solutions to many cybercrime activities. But help from the U.S. government is needed, particularly to encourage other countries to pay attention to cybercrime issues, said Craig Mundie, CTO at Microsoft Corp.

Mundie also suggested that U.S. laws lack strong cybercrime penalties. A criminal who steals one car can spend more time in jail than a hacker who causes millions of dollars in damage with a virus, he said.

New legislation dealing with cybercrime could be one idea to emerge from the commission, Mundie said.

With new, sophisticated cybercrime activities, including phishing schemes, lawmakers and consumers need to pay more attention to cybercrime, added Christopher Bolin, CTO at antivirus vendor McAfee Inc. Scammers using phishing tactics typically send out fraudulent e-mail targeting users of financial institutions or other e-commerce sites. The e-mail often tells recipients there’s a problem with their accounts, and that they need to re-enter their bank account or credit card number at a bogus Web site designed to look like the legitimate e-commerce site.

“It’s a completely different guy at the other end that we’re used to dealing with,” Bolin said. “This is not a pimple-faced kid who, when he gets a girlfriend, stops writing viruses. This is a guy with a business plan.” The White House officials did not commit to a cybercrime commission but seemed receptive to the idea, said Robert Holleyman, BSA president and chief executive officer.

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