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Cybercrime? Forget it

Police too snowed under to cope

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I would imagine that some reading this would be old enough to remember the hard hitting TV series The Sweeney. Each episode was action packed with crashing and banging as the heroes went from "manor to manor" "spinning drums" and "executing Ws" after showing "their briefs"*.

This program was supposed to represent policing as it was in the 1970s and early '80s in all its gory detail as the cops were kept busy sorting out armed robberies.

Moving forward to 2007 and no one in their right mind would bother with an armed robbery these days.

Why? It's not worth the risk. Many robberies see those making off with only a few hundred pounds as modern day security systems cloak the villains in smoke and/or dye while capturing high definition video for later analysis. Of course, there are still armed robberies, but these are mostly carried out by witless wonders that need some cash for their latest hit rather than your more sophisticated crook.

So where are these sophisticates now hanging out? Well, I would suggest at a PC near you right now. And no, I don't mean police constable as we don't have many of these anymore, as they seem to have been replaced on the streets by their yellow jacketed support officer colleagues in an attempt to make the public feel safe.

The problem is that the police just can't cope with computer crime.

The volume of e-crime (as it is now officially called) has quite frankly left those agencies responsible for maintaining law and order high and dry.

According to a report by the Metropolitan Police, we all spent £7.5bn over Christmas online in 2006 - up by 50 per cent on the previous year. With this level of money flowing through consumers' computers bad people are attracted like bees around honey.

People that I speak to that have suffered from e-crime are pulling their hair out at the reporting process. OK, the credit card companies do what they can in most instances, as do the banks, but what about an investigation into the crime?

Forget it, resources are too stretched and your crime is not that important.

And, to be honest, you can't blame the police. Faced with the levels of real in-your-face violent crime there needs to be priorities. This will only get worse as the public sector faces a huge squeeze on finances over the next few years. One home county police force needs to save £18m over the next four years, against a backdrop of overstretch and enormous demands on limited resources.

As an aside I remember that in the late 80s and early 90s cheque fraud was the in thing. The smart villains used to play the system, by using cheques for less than the value required on a cheque guarantee card and making multiple transactions in a day with a variety of cheque books. The end result was the villain getting your money as the value fell below that which figured on the radar of the bank's security people.

Small cheque fraud was rife, and was one of the easiest crimes to commit.

I would suggest that e-crime is not quite that easy, but any extra technical difficulties are easily offset with the sheer volume of users that can be targeted in one go. So what if your scam takes a week to create, when you get it out to thousands of users you will get some hits. It's back to the good old risk/reward calculation that we are familiar with in business.

At the end of the day e-crime is a low risk, high reward activity that has got the authorities on the hop.

Where does the problem lie? Quite frankly this is a government funding issue that needs to be resolved.

Even Microsoft has been having a pop at the failure of government to take positive action, although I must admit to feeling uncomfortable when Microsoft speaks of computer security, in much the same way as when you hear a convert evangelising others to their new found religion.

Maybe the problem would not have been so bad if Microsoft had gotten their act together a few years sooner.

In reality, we know nothing much is going to get done. Overstretched resources will remain overstretched for years. The onus must come back to the user and a huge education campaign, alongside innovation, and discipline from the industry. Meanwhile, the bad guys will continue to get richer.

Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com

* "manor to manor" = place to place

"spinning drums" = conducting search warrants

"executing Ws" = executing search warrants

"showing their briefs" = showing their warrant cards

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