Concern grows over cybercrime

Computer security took on a new importance in 2002 as governments and the private sector began to grapple with the lessons and...

Computer security took on a new importance in 2002 as governments and the private sector began to grapple with the lessons and after effects of the 11 September attacks, writes Bill Goodwin.

A wave of cyber attacks from pro-Islamic hackers, the Government's floundering plans to monitor e-mail and Web traffic, and a new wave of viruses dominated the headlines during 2002.

The year began with a series of raids on local government offices by professional criminals looking for Sun equipment. In one alarming development, IT staff at Barking and Dagenham Council were tied up and assaulted.

Concern grew over the adequacy of the UK's computer crime law, the Computer Misuse Act. Ministers are now considering a review of the Act, following a campaign by Computer Weekly, Eurim, and other IT user groups.

Poor security practices were rife. One Computer Weekly reader stumbled onto major security gaffes in the systems of Taxchecker which left tax returns available online.

Consulting firm DDPlus found it could gain access to servers belonging to ISP Easynet, gain administration rights and download sensitive files including an unencrypted list of passwords belonging to Easynet customers.

In November, the US Government announced plans to deport UK systems administrator Gary McKinnon after he allegedly hacked into US defence systems.

The UK Government, meanwhile, ran into difficulties with its e-mail snooping legislation. With opposition mounting from ISPs, which will have to bear the costs, and privacy concerns from civil liberties groups, it finally conceded that it will have to rethink its approach.

The killer blow came when a legal opinion obtained by the Information Commissioner concluded that the monitoring and access laws were, in combination, in breach of Human Rights legislation.

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