The number of victims to online theft is on the increase, so why is the government and its law enforcement agencies not doing enough to protect users, asks Simon Moores
The full impact of technology in the fight against crime only came to me recently, when I found myself making a 999 call from a windswept seafront in Kent.
A good kilometre from the centre of town, I was starting to despair over how long it was taking for the police operator to record my home address and position when she suddenly interjected, “I can see them now on the CCTV.”
With my phone still pressed to my ear, I scanned around. Where on earth was the camera, I wondered. Two minutes later a police car arrived, and seven youths with hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps were arrested.
But the incident left me thinking that the grip of the surveillance society extends further than I had imagined.
With a General Election perhaps only six months away, all the political parties are expressing increasingly tougher messages on crime and its causes but none of them appear to have any real answers to crime on the streets and crime on the internet.
In fact, because the former is more immediate and experienced more regularly by the greater part of the population, the impact of the latter is not given the real attention it needs in an economy that is placing greater emphasis on the importance of online trading.
Research from LogicaCMG reveals that more than a million people in the UK have become victims of online security breaches and that one in 20 consumers have either lost or experienced an attempt to steal their financial or personal details while shopping or banking on the internet.
The result, says the report, is a loss of confidence in the medium, with 43% comparing this to the experience of being robbed and 31% claiming a loss of trust in the brand or the company involved.
At this month's Serious & Organised Crime conference in London a report by Robson Rhodes, revealed that at the opposite end of the spectrum, 17% of companies - mostly banks and online retailers - had either had their identity stolen or experienced an attempt to steal that identity for purposes such as phishing for personal financial information.
Robson Rhodes describes identity theft and economic crime as “a serious and growing threat to all companies” and reports that 59% of businesses in their FTSE 100 and 250 survey group expect the problem to grow over the next three years. It found that 54% of respondents have had to take disciplinary action against perpetrators in the past 12 months.
Many companies are reporting losses of 3% to 5% of turnover as a consequence of fraud of all kinds and the cost to UK business is estimated at £32bn with the costs of prevention at a further £8bn annually.
There is an unpleasant reality to consider here, in a world where the CCTV cameras are more likely to be owned by serious and organised criminals watching you type your Pin number into your local cash point machine.
Without a doubt, government of any colour has to do more to protect confidence in the online environment. Only this month, in a landmark case, the first of its kind in the UK, four eastern Europeans appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to defraud financial institutions through the use of a phishing scam.
While government attempts to protect society from paedophiles and anti-social behaviour, it may be losing the initiative elsewhere, after all, in cyberspace, nobody can hear you dialling 999.
Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit www.zentelligence.com