Police struggle to handle cybercrime, say Microsoft and open-source advocates

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Police struggle to handle cybercrime, say Microsoft and open-source advocates

Antony Savvas

Microsoft and representatives from the open source community have told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee that more must be done to make it easier for people to report cyber crime.

The committee, which is investigating personal internet security, was told that the public faces real difficulty in reporting internet based crime.

Representatives of Microsoft and members of the open source community agreed that police lack the skills and expertise to deal effectively with cases of internet crime that are brought to them.

Jerry Fishenden, national technology officer for Microsoft UK, pointed out that reporting cyber crime is extremely difficult and that the public are confused as to how they should go about it.

He said, “We believe it is necessary to have as easy a reporting mechanism as possible so that when people are victims of cyber crime or attempted cyber crime there is a streamlined reporting structure, and ideally one body with responsibility for receiving those complaints and having appropriate resources to investigate and potentially initiate prosecutions where appropriate.”

Fishenden said that in the US there is a single point for reporting cyber crime, established by the FBI back in the late 1990s. The Internet Crime Complaints Centre takes some 10,000 plus complaints a year, and has the authority and resources to actually look into those complaints, said Fishenden.

He said a similar agency would be a good idea for the UK to establish.

Alan Cox, called to give evidence on behalf of the open source community, said, “If you walk up to the desk sergeant at a typical police station he does not understand the problems - and why should he - and there is nowhere else to go.

“We need something which deals with electronic crime and computers, either an understanding in police stations or we need a central contact point,” said Cox.

Fishenden was asked by the committee as to whether Microsoft was more concerned with establishing market dominance by rushing out operating systems rather than ensuring their security.

Fishenden denied this, saying, “I guess I would take almost the opposite view, we have been waiting five years for Windows Vista. I certainly do not think it is true that we have been rushing out new operating systems without due account of security.”

Related article: Lords to grill Microsoft over internet security

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