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Tories call for big changes to cybercrime offences

G-men for the internet, new offence for civil servants

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Civil servants who lose public data could be prosecuted under proposals announced by the Conservative Party. It's one of a number of measures touted, as the Tories call for major changes in how the UK deals with cybercrime and data protection.

The Tories' report - Tackling Cybercrime - calls for new offences for civil servants or government contractors who lose confidential data, a new police squad to go after cybercrims and a minister for cybercrime.

More radically, the Tories are also calling for a "breach law" - forcing financial services companies to inform the Financial Services Authority if their systems are hacked or compromised in some way and confidential data is at risk.

The Information Commissioner's Office has been pushing for such a change in the law. Many of the Tories' recommendations on cybercrime closely parallel those made by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology last August, proposals the government rejected to the consternation of security experts.

A Tory government would also bring forward legislation to "create an offence of reckless handing of personal data by government, making it an offence for a Crown Servant or government contractor to lose personal data from their control".

The Tories also want to establish a cybercrime team within the Crown Prosecution Service, which would work with the proposed Police National Cybercrime Unit, and a central website for reporting internet crimes. A single "Fraud and Cybercrime Complaint Centre" - similar to the US Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) - would be set up to provide central reporting of online crime.

Policies introduced in April 2006 mean the public is advised to report incidents of credit card fraud to the banks instead of to the police. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), created by the merger of the National High Tech Crime Unit and other specialist agencies in April 2006, only takes reports of cybercrime indirectly and tackles only the largest cases.

Her Majesty's Opposition is also calling for the British Standards Institute to back a kitemark so we could recognise emails from large organisations in order to reduce phishing. Given phishers' skills in copying existing email formats, this sounds like it could backfire.

The report is available to download as a pdf from here.®

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