Did you know it was Personal Firewall Day last Thursday? No, I didn't either.
The campaign, an internet equivalent of a safe sex message, came from Microsoft and several leading security suppliers as an initiative to promote the importance of firewall technology to computer users. It seems it failed to capture the public’s imagination.
On the same day, a meeting on tackling e-crime was being held in the shadow of Big Ben, and it appears that a solid, national e-crime strategy was also beyond the imagination of the government.
If I were to offer a jaded but independent view, I would say that it is all a very British mess. The notes I have in front of me say, “There is already significant debate on the relative priorities for law enforcement, given that their priorities are limited. Current priorities are focused on visible social issues, such as street crime on the one hand and major international criminal activity, such as drugs trafficking, on the other. White-collar crime is already suffering from a lack of resource within law enforcement, leading industry to take greater responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of some offences, such as software piracy and credit card fraud, as well as ‘unacceptable activities’, relating to the protection of children which resulted in the establishment of the Internet Watch Foundation”.
What resources we do have to fight internet crime are overworked and underfunded. An overlapping committee process directs the battle we are already fighting in the digital badlands, with responsibilities divided between different agencies, depending on whether the remit is critical infrastructure, e-crime, or intelligence. I’m briefly reminded of the classic television series, The Sweeney, where the real entertainment lay not in watching criminals being caught, but in the regular punch-ups between the Flying Squad and Special Branch when they both reached the crime scene at the same time.
Another problem in dealing with e-crime and information security issues lies in the large number of different and often competing groups, forums and working parties who are involved in the process.
Consultation is good, but with so many different interests, all wanting to be seen to be driving the agenda, we seem to be making very little real progress tackling the growing internet crime problem beyond a steady stream of recommendations and white papers.
Finally, we need to return to funding and budgets. The Home Office might be keen to see the arrival of a solid e-crime strategy, but this needs ministerial support and, ultimately, Treasury support. The e-crime problem crosses many different departments and ministries and most of these have very little understanding or interest in a visibly growing problem.
This month, we have seen the bank of England taken to court over the BCCI affair. I wonder, if one day in the future, the government might be held accountable over its limited response to the threat from the internet. One person may be mugged in the street for £50, but 10,000 people or businesses can be mugged in cyberspace for a tenner apiece.
How we can sensibly deal with this risk as a society should be viewed rather more as an urgent concern and less of a wait-and-see exercise.
What do you think?
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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com
This was first published in January 2004