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The National Crime Squad is holding its first ever conference on hi-tech crime and electronic extortion via the Internet.

The conference, to be held between February 14 and 15 at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham, will include delegates from over 20 European countries and will feature speakers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Crime Squad.

A key aim of the conference will be to obtain international co-operation on how computer crime can be investigated and forge stronger working relationships between police forces and commercial bodies.

British IT industry representatives will be join colleagues in law enforcement to look at the threat of electronic extortion and the ways in which the problem can be either reduced or alleviated.

The conference precedes the establishment of a National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, due to be operational in April this year, which has received £25m in Home Office funding to set up a "Cyber Sweeney" squad, which is expected to employ around 40 officers. The Unit will work with Government, local and national law enforcement agencies and forces as well as industry in order to help make the UK a "safe environment in which to conduct ebusiness".

During the conference case studies and simulated exercises in order to enable delegates to explore the nature of fraud on the Internet, and discuss methods on how they would approach such a problem, including evidence gathering and ultimately the detection of the crime.

After the conference the National Crime Squad will then publish a policy document and best practice guidelines for the benefit of all delegates in developing responses to serious and organised crime on the Internet.

The full scope of hi-tech crime in the UK has yet to be realised but for companies who can unwittingly fall prey to this anonymous or faceless crime it can result in severe economic loss.

Meanwhile, a damning report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that Internet banks could become a haven for organised criminals who wish to launder money. It warned that organised criminals can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to clean-up the proceeds of serious crime, and is calling for tighter controls. Few cases of money laundering over the Internet have so far been reported, but this does not stop the OECD's Financial Action Task Force of warning of the potential risks from Internet banking or online gambling of criminal misuse. ®

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