Police and businesses are collaborating with the aim of creating a national centre to co-ordinate security research and advise small firms on how to protect themselves against computer crime.
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The proposed centre, an alliance modelled on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, will draw on the resources of police, the IT industry and universities to help firms fight hacking and virus attacks.
The centre would plug a gap in the provision of help for small firms, which the latest Department of Trade & Industry research shows are bearing the brunt of crime costing an estimated £10bn a year.
“What we are seeking to do is to reduce the time and effort needed by firms to protect themselves from internet crime. The simpler and more appropriate the information is, the better the protection will be to the systems in the UK,” said inspector Martin Wright of West Midlands police, which is co-ordinating work on moving the plans forward.
The plan has won support from the Home Office, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and suppliers including Qinetiq, BT and Symantec, according to Wright.
Chris Sundt, an IT security expert who works closely with the industry and government IT forum Eurim, said businesses were hoping that the national e-crime prevention centre would plug some of the gaps left by the closure of the National High-Tech Crime Unit earlier this year.
“What is becoming apparent is that the political priorities and drivers for law enforcement do not focus on e-crime, so there is a lack of resource. The upshot is that e-crime prevention is an area where a new centre could make a real difference for relatively little money,” he said.
The centre would act as a one-stop shop for advice for small firms, drawing on a wide range of research from universities and IT security companies.
It would offer advice on preventing fraud, money laundering, terrorism, paedophile networks and other forms of e-crime.
“Co-ordination to develop a UK-wide strategy for combating e-crime is essential. We must not underestimate the size of this task and only strong leadership will deliver real results,” said Sadie Creese, strategic research manager of Qinetiq and director of the Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Network.
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