Government urged to take lead in global fight against computer crime

The UK should use its presidency of the European Union and the G8 to take the lead in co-ordinating international action against...

The UK should use its presidency of the European Union and the G8 to take the lead in co-ordinating international action against e-crime, following a sharp rise in the cost computer crime to businesses, according to an influential group of IT professionals, MPs and civil servants.

Computer crime costs businesses far more than physical crime but receives only a fraction of police resources, a report by the European Information Society Group, and the Institute for Public Policy Research published today claims.

"The economic well being of the UK in a globally competitive knowledge economy depends increasingly on the security of London as an international electronic trading centre. The tax revenues at stake are many times the budgets available for the War Against Terror," according to the report.

Despite these risks, less than 1% of UK police have been trained to gather computer evidence and there are fewer than 100 experts in the country capable of analysing computer evidence to court standards.

"There are more consultants carrying out work on ID cards than there are police officers fighting computer crime," said Philip Virgo Eurim Secretary general.

Police, government, and businesses need to work closer together in a structured way, to share intelligence, expertise and resources in fighting e-crime, and to develop common investigation and evidence gathering techniques, according to the report.

It urges the law enforcement agencies to follow the lead of the US by co-opting private sector IT specialists as "specialist constables" to assist in computer crime investigations.

The US has trained over 600 retired IT and law enforcement professionals as "sliver surfers" to help the investigation into online paedophiles. Retired IT professionals in the UK, could form a similar resource to fight computer crime of all types, the report will suggest.

Police evidence gathering practices and standards should be made available to private sector security specialists to help them gather forensic evidence in a way that could form the basis of police prosecution, the report will recommend.

"The load on law enforcement could be significantly reduced if investigations in the private sector could also be carried out by accredited staff working to standards and procedures commonly recognised across the public and private sectors."

Internet crime and disorder partnerships, made up of both police and private sector investigators, should also be created to focus on protecting the communications infrastructure, the finance sector, mass market internet users, and children. The model has already been successfully used in the UK to fight credit card fraud.

Main recommendations

  • The UK should use its presidency of the EU and G8 in 2005 to take the lead in fighting computer crime
  • Funding should be allocated to bring together government, law enforcement, regulators, industry to improve co-operation on computer crime
  • Simple procedures should be developed for IT staff if they suspect a criminal incident
  • Police guidelines on investigating computer crime should be made available to businesses, so police and private investigators use the same procedures
  • Joint industry/law enforcement units should be developed to fight computer crime
  • The National High Tech Crime Unit should create an initiative to allow police and the private sector to share best practice, knowledge and tools
  • Home office to investigate how civilian investigators can work with police, perhaps as specialist constables.
  • Home office should fund internet crime and disorder partnerships
  • Internet policy should fall under a regulator equivalent to a conventional police authority

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