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More police needed to tackle e-crime

LINX calls for extra Bobbies on the Net, rather than more legislation

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Improved enforcement of existing laws – rather than more regulations – should be a government priority in the fight against crime on the Net.

The London Internet Exchange's (LINX) call for greater police resources in the fight against cybercrime comes as MPs prepare to hold an inquiry on whether Britain’s key computer crime law - the Computer Misuse Act 1990 - needs updating. The government is shortly due to publish its Framework Strategy for e-crime.

LINX is the UK's main peering centre for ISPs, so its opinion carries considerable weight in the UK Internet industry.

Where’s a policeman when you need one?
Writing in a special Home Office edition of the magazine Public Service Review, LINX regulation officer Malcolm Hutty argues that the growing problem of e-crime is affecting public confidence in the Internet.

"In the real world, ISPs are often the only support available for individuals and small businesses who are victims of crimes such as hacking, online extortion or denial of service attacks," Hutty says.

"Sometimes ISPs are faced with customers who are victims of crime, deserving of police attention. However, there is no national body adequately resourced and willing to take complaints from members of the public. ISPs are forced to refer customers to their local police station, knowing that very often the crime is not local, it is too technical for local officers to deal with effectively, and overworked specialist units are unlikely to take substantive further action."

As a result of these problems few reports of online criminal activity actually result in a police investigation. This is turn means the problem of cybercrimes - such as online fraud - are seen as less important than they really are.

Hutty’s comments back up a call by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur earlier this week for greater police resources in the fight against cybercrime.

Legislative tangle

It’s sometimes argued that more elaborate regulatory controls might reduce the need to go through the difficult and expensive process of investigating and prosecuting criminal activity.

Such an approach has little likelihood of success, according to Hutty

"This legislative approach is fraught with difficulty, risks producing attractive-sounding solutions of dubious practical relevance and is unable to answer the question of who is going to enforce the new rules,” he writes.

For example, Hutty notes that attendance at the Home Secretary's Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet outnumbers the manpower at POLIT (the police group responsible for addressing online paedophilia at a national level).

“The requirement for an adequate number of appropriately-trained police officers to investigate complaints of high-tech criminal activity is inescapable,” Hutty concludes.

LINX is a founder member of the Internet Crime Forum (with participants from government, law enforcement, child protection groups and the Internet industry) and the Home Secretary's Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet, as well as of the Internet Watch Foundation. ®

Related stories

E-crime costs UK business billions
The rise of the white collar hacker
MPs hold inquiry into UK computer crime law
My sysadmin is a special constable
UK ID theft gang jailed for £350K fraud

External Links

Malcolm Hutty's cyber-crime 'think piece' (PDF)

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