Police charter will boost fight against cybercrime

Business organisations have welcomed plans by the UK's National High-Tech Crime Unit to give guarantees of confidentiality to...

Business organisations have welcomed plans by the UK's National High-Tech Crime Unit to give guarantees of confidentiality to businesses when they report hacking, virus attacks and other computer crimes.

The unit's confidentiality charter, launched this week, follows long-running concerns that businesses are failing to report computer crimes because they fear that bad publicity will damage both their reputation and their share price.

"We certainly welcome any moves to help business tackle computer crime. Small businesses in particular need all the support they can get to cope with this growing problem," the Institute of Directors said.

The lack of accurate statistics on cybercrime has made it difficult for police forces and other law enforcement agencies to secure the levels of funding that they believe are necessary to fight the problem.

The most recent research by the Department of Trade & Industry suggests that only one third of businesses are prepared to report attacks on their systems.

"It is essential that commercial organisations that are targeted by high-tech criminals are given the assurances that they can report such attacks without fear of adversely affecting their business," said detective chief superintendent Len Hynds, head of the National High-Tech Crime Unit.

The charter gives businesses the option of passing intelligence on cybercrime issues to the police that will be used anonymously to identify crime patterns and trends and to alert other businesses of potential threats.

The unit also promises to be sympathetic to the needs of businesses that report crimes and guarantees that it will carry out investigations with minimal disruption to the computer systems of any company involved.

In practice, experience has shown that fear of business disruption has been a greater deterrent to companies reporting computer crime than concerns about confidentiality, said Hynds.

Once businesses have been given reassurances that their computer systems can be examined on site, without disrupting their businesses, they are almost always prepared to come forward, he said.

Many types of crime increasingly involve the Internet and sophisticated communications systems, said Hynds, who urged chief constables to ensure that resources are in place in their police forces to deal with it.

Evidence has emerged, for instance, that paedophile groups are working with hackers to hide Web sites of illegal photographs inside the computer systems of businesses, he revealed.

Changes secured by the National High-Tech Crime Unit should ensure that police forces record high-tech crimes, providing accurate statistics on the extent of the problem.

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