Thought for the day: We know where you live

Resist the web browser witch hunt - online crime doesn't represent anything like the same kind of threat as global terrorism,...

Simon Moores  

Resist the web browser witch hunt - online crime doesn't represent anything like the same kind of threat as global terrorism, says Simon Moores.




I noticed for the first time this week that high-tech crime has emerged as an issue with the complaint of the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police lacked the funding to address the many demands made upon them. One of those issues is high-tech crime, which will ultimately fall under the remit of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency - Britain’s version of the FBI, when it appears.

Last Saturday, Natwest Bank announced it had suspended internet services over fears connected with a new identity theft or phishing scam. This month’s internet security intelligence briefing from VeriSign, which examines security exploits between July and September, shows an increase of 150% over the same period in 2003. The report concludes that the internet is becoming a more dangerous environment thanks to the sophistication of the attacks and the potential risk/reward model employed by the organised crime gangs now using a variety of techniques to compromise systems and steal sensitive information.

With Microsoft’s Windows the inevitable and unhappy target of most attacks, the Global ATM Security Alliance  has now published the first international security guidelines for cash machines. ATMs are something many of us have been worried about for some time – my own local machine seems to crash at least once a week with an appropriate Windows error message displayed.

A year after the Slammer worm indirectly shut down some 13,000 Bank of America ATMs by infecting database servers on the same network, and the Nachi worm compromised Windows-based cash machines at two financial institutions, the industry has decided it needs a broader defensive approach to the problem.

While the police are asking for more money and resources, the Home Secretary will use this week’s Queen’s speech to outline new measures to combat crime and terrorism. These include the introduction of ID cards and plans to prevent "acts preparatory to terrorism", which might include "perhaps being able to use computer networks" - or perhaps visiting the Aljazeera website?

David Blunkett and former US presidential anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke might benefit by being locked up in the same room together, to exchange ideas on their approach to the same problem.

The Computer Crime Research Centre reports that Clarke has revealed that before invading Iraq, "the US government used the internet to communicate directly with Iraqi soldiers by sending them personalised messages saying, 'We're about to invade. We're going to overwhelm you and if you resist us we're going to kill you. But we don’t want to do that. So really the best thing for you to do when we invade is to go home.' The soldiers got the message and most of them went home."

In Iraq, before the war, it’s probably fair to say that only a handful of Iraqi soldiers had access to the internet and perhaps they did indeed go home to be bombed instead of being bombed in situ. However, the whole subject of the internet in the context of war and terrorism appears exaggerated by governments on both sides of the Atlantic with a particular agenda to support.

I believe we should be very cautious over mission-creep statements contrasting the fight against organised crime on the internet and the fight against global terrorism, particularly when it starts finding its way into our legislation.

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

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