Talking at the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit’s second e-crime congress, Caroline Flint, junior Home Office minister said the government would make changes to the Computer Misuse Act to allow police to prosecute people for making computer attacks such as denial of service.
The legislation will also be beefed up to allow the courts to press for stronger penalties for incidents of forging data such as faking a website.
‘The Home Office is working on this and sees it as a priority,’ said Flint who said at the same time the government and law enforcement agencies were working to develop a coherent strategy to implement international cooperation, because e-crime is a global threat. She did not say when the changes would take place.
Experts claim this increased cooperation between government, business and law enforcement agencies is vital to stop organised crime taking advantage of the anonymity of the internet.
According to the NHTCU second e-crime survey released at the event, one of the main threats to consumers is the problem of identify theft through virus attacks and website phishing (the term coined by hackers who imitate legitimate companies in e-mails to entice people to share passwords or credit-card numbers), which has seen a big rise recently.
Financial fraud the most prevalent of all internet crime, with three financial institutions admitted that last year they had suffered losses over £20m each, according to the report.
Overall this fraud cost businesses in the UK over £121m in 2003. This is made up of financial losses, clear up costs and the lost of customer confidence. Theft of data itself cost £6.6m.
Virus attacks cost £27.8m to clear up.
‘ID and phishing attacks are much more common than a year ago. We heard of 50 attacks of phishing this year, compared to only seven in 2002. But there are probably more incidents that have been reported to local police, and the sites are far more sophisticated,’ said Detective chief superintendent Len Hynds, head of the NHTCU.
He said apathy among internet users who are complacent and leave the problem up to someone else to sort out, plus human error and ignorance were playing right into the criminals’ hands.
‘Organised crime will not telegraph its tactics to its intended victims out of choice and where it can operate against a complacent adversary it will give no quarter,’ he said.
Hynds believes that the only way to the internet will continue to grow, as a medium for business, entertainment and education is to combat the menace of the hi-tech criminals.
He said it will require everyone to take a collective responsibility and work together to weed out the criminals.
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