Whitehall delays launch of national e-crime plan

E-crime minister Caroline Flint will use the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit's e-congress today to underline the government's...

E-crime minister Caroline Flint will use the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit's e-congress today to underline the government's commitment to reform the Computer Misuse Act.

But her remarks are likely to disappoint IT security professionals, who had expected the home secretary David Blunkett to announce the government's long-awaited national strategy on computer crime.

The strategy, which will co-ordinate action against computer crime across Whitehall, law enforcement agencies and business, is now unlikely to be ready before April or May.

The Home Office has blamed the delay on pressure of work, including the production of a forthcoming white paper on computer crime prosecutions.

The slippage comes as the government faces increasing political pressure to tackle hacking, viruses and the wave of phishing attacks against banks and online retailers.

Research for the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit has shown that 20% of companies have suffered denial of service attacks, 17% have been the victims of financial fraud and 15% have been the victim of corporate website spoofing. Virus attacks have risen by 10% over the past 12 months, affecting 77% of companies.

"Cracking down on this threat requires co-operation between internet users and enforcement authorities," said shadow Home Office spokesman MP James Paice.

Chris Sundt, a security consultant who works with the government, said, "Without a strategy the government is unable to show it is doing something. We need to get a coherent message from the DTI, the Home Office and the Department of Education."

The strategy is expected to highlight the need to reform security training and awareness for business and the public, and will open the way for the police to make greater use of IT security specialists from industry.

Cost of e-crime to businesses       

Financial fraud  £121m 

Virus attacks  £27m  

Criminal misuse of the internet  £23m 

Denial of service £1.3m 

Other high-tech crime £8.1m 

Theft of data £6.6m 

Web spoofing attacks £4.8m 

Unauthorised access to IT systems £500,000 

Damage to data or networks £800,000 

Misuse of company websites £900,000   

Total cost of e-crime in 2003 experienced by 167 companies surveyed by marketing firm NOP   

Source: National Hi-Tech Crime Unit

Read more on IT risk management