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IT pros - not spotty teenagers - are now the most usual suspects in cybercrime investigations, a senior Metropolitan Police officer said today.

A new breed of white collar criminal is coming to the fore, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the head of Scotland Yard’s specialist crime directorate, told delegates at the Computer and Internet Crime Conference in London: "We're seeing more mature offenders, often with a background in the IT industry carrying out malicious attacks and infiltration. Attacks, especially in the banking sector, have been motivated by organised crime groups."

However, companies often simply sack employees guilty of fraud or misuse or their computer systems, when they should be reporting them to the police.

This approach is short-sighted, Ghaffur said, citing investigations where his officers have arrested suspects who were fired several times before facing prosecution for fraud. Scotland Yard wants to make it easier for firms to report computer crimes and share information on losses - anonymously, if necessary.

Out come the sleazeballs

According to Ghaffur, traditional offences are increasingly conducted in cyberspace. He singled out the trade of paedophile pictures online, cyber blackmail and ID theft as priorities in Scotland Yard’s fight against cybercrime. Of these, ID theft crimes (which are associated with huge financial loses) are the highest priority.

Cybercrime should be higher up the political agenda, according to Ghaffur, who said the area currently receives "insufficient funding and resources". He called for cybercrime to be reported as a separate category in crime statistics so that its true scope would be more clear.

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), an FBI-style police force which begins operation in the UK in 2006, will take the lead in the fight against Britain’s organised criminals.

The force will combine the roles of the National Crime Squad, National Intelligence Service, Immigration and Customs and Excise. It will target drug trafficking, people smuggling and fraud cases.

The agency will co-ordinate intelligence and resources at a national and will take a "problem-centric" approach to the fight against crime, according to Ghaffur. Cybercrime – because of its international dimension – should be one of SOCA’s priorities, he said.

SOCA should not operate in isolation from other law enforcement agencies, such as Scotland Yard’s Computer Crime Unit (CCU), according to Ghaffur. He praised the work of officers in the Met’s Computer Crime Unit and cited a joint intelligence cell comprisng the Metropolitan Police, the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties) as a model for collaboration among law enforcement agencies. ®

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