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The Internet’s dark side plagues some companies, targeted by those who exploit the supposed anonymity of cyberspace to engage in very real fraud, defamation, harassment and even death threats. Trading their trench coats for keyboards, Internet sleuths have emerged to help these companies track down wrongdoers. Enter Abby Notterman, a one-time assistant corporate counsel in the New York City law department. Notterman has carved out a niche as in-house counsel to Princeton, N.J.-based ICG Inc., a firm that companies hire to track down individuals who use the Internet for nefarious purposes. As ICG’s staff raced to devise creative ways to catch their quarry, Notterman had to turn to the law books to vet tactics and to steer her client away from any legally gray methods. Today, ICG, which has grown from roughly six to 20 employees, plays four major roles, according to Michael Allison, chairman and CEO of ICG: conducting cyber investigations; performing computer forensic and discovery; providing computer security services, including technical assistance to “harden” a company’s system against electronic fraud; and responding to critical events, such as breaches or threats to a company’s computer system. FIRST THINGS FIRST When ICG started in January 2000, Notterman said her first step was to get a private investigator’s license for the firm so that ICG investigators had credentials. Business was coming in the door from companies complaining about conduct ranging from Internet death threats against executives to data security breaches. The job of corporate counsel in the high-tech world is complicated by rapidly evolving technology and the developing legal standards that rule it. “There are conflicts in what you can and can’t do. The law pulls in many directions,” said Allison. One law that Notterman took a close look at was the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which criminalizes improper access to another computer. She read the law, law reviews, articles and even did some “noodling on the Internet” to find other privacy lawyers and legal experts, then she called them to pick their brains. Notterman also had to worry about the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which dictates what employers can and cannot do with messages stored on their computers and messages in transit. She had to worry about federal criminal laws forbidding possession of child pornography, and whether her investigators would cross the line by opening up a client’s computer drive to see if the machine carried illicit material. The conclusion: “If we find it, we’re going to report it” to the authorities, she said. As business grows, Notterman has to stay on top of the shifting technological and legal terrain, like the constraints imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which governs use of health data; and the Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which regulates use of information by financial institutions. She also tends to the daily legal needs of a growing company. Information-privacy issues were also a focus of Notterman’s past position with New York City. There she worked on a suit where the city defended itself against an effort to disclose the identity of a school child with AIDS. Taking her interest in Internet privacy issues beyond her role as ICG’s counsel, she teaches a New York continuing legal education course on Internet fraud and crime, and takes up public-speaking engagements. Notterman’s biggest challenge is keeping up with information technology: “There’s news every day. A lot of it is keeping up with what’s out there now and how it’s impacting our clients.”

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