G8 tackles e-crime

Mike Simons

In the wake of the Love Bug attack, officials from the G8 group of advanced industrialised countries are meeting in Paris...

Mike Simons

In the wake of the Love Bug attack, officials from the G8 group of advanced industrialised countries are meeting in Paris this week to agree ways of tackling online crime.

As they thrashed out the need to standardise cybercrime laws, security experts and representatives of IT users this week called for the UK Government to spend more and raise the profile of security.

John Perkins, chief executive of the National Computing Centre, said, "The Government is saying the right things but it is not putting enough resources into infrastructure. It is not enough to have a bunch of government insiders sitting around making policy, even if they are doing some useful things."

Peter Sommer, one of Britain's leading security experts, compared the public profile of the US National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) with the UK's National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre.

"The NIPC has an address, aWeb site containing a National Threat assessment and a director who speaks in public," said Sommer. Its UK equivalent brings together the secret services, the Communications and Electronic Security Group at the GCHQ spy center, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of the Environment and the Cabinet Office.

The result, according to Sommer, is "turf wars" between the various agencies and a climate of secrecy that makes it difficult to evaluate the quality of NIPC's work.

One security expert who has worked closely with the US and UK Governments said, "A lot is happening in Britain behind closed doors, but it would not hurt if it was more public.

The US, he said, has viewed its IT infrastructure as a strategic asset for many years, whereas UK officials have lagged behind.

The potential risks were highlighted last month by Margaret Beckett, leader of the House of Commons, who, in a private letter to Tony Blair, slammed the final draft of the Government's key "E-Government" strategy document for complacency that could "render the UK infrastructure increasingly vulnerable to electronic attack".

Government action on cybercrime: UK versus US

UK: Graham Stringer, junior Cabinet Office minister, promised a full statement to Parliament once a Cabinet Office assessment of the Love Bug is complete

UK: Department for Trade & Industry's Information of Management programme is spending £15m on confronting cybercrime, while MI5 is building a new £25m surveillance centre to monitor e-mail and Internet messages

US: House of Representatives has begun public hearings into the virus attack, with some members of the House Science Committee condemning the software industry for producing vulnerable programmes

US: President Clinton is demanding a $2bn (£1.25bn) investment on security-related issues, with much of that going on research and development in information security

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