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UK Calls for Civilian Deputies to Fight Cybercrime

By Bernhard Warner,
European Internet Correspondent
Date: December 11, 2003

Cybercrime LONDON (Reuters) - A contingent of British MPs, police and technology industry executives will propose on Thursday that civilian specialists be deputised and local UK laws strengthened to fight cyber crime.

"E-crime has become a huge problem, hitting e-commerce, hitting business. It's one of the obstacles in the way of creating a true information society," said Philip Virgo, Secretary General of EURIM, a ten-year-old trade group for Europe's technology sector.

EURIM is hoping the proposals act as a blueprint for other European countries also caught in the grip of a cyber crime wave.

According to Virgo, the group has collected input from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, elected officials and executives from Britain's biggest banks and business association to develop a blueprint for fighting one of the biggest crime threats facing businesses and individuals.

The group will propose that the government relieve the overburdened police force by enrolling computer security specialists from the private sector to assist.

They would be akin to special constables, Virgo said, except they would not be granted power of arrest nor would they be required to assist police in non-computing police work.

Recruiting computer specialists to help in cyber investigations is nothing new. Granting them an expanded role, though, points to the growing problem of cyber crime that afflicts the developed world.

Fortifying computer networks against digital attacks and educating people about the existence of Internet crime rings was dubbed an issue of "pressing global interest in the 21st Century" by dignitaries at the United Nations inaugural IT conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

Police around the globe have reported a dramatic upswing in organized crime groups preying on online businesses in sophisticated extortion tactics. Fraud too has increased significantly as more consumers become regular online shoppers.

"Ten percent of the world's population is on the Internet. That means ten percent of the criminals are online too," said Virgo.

The group is also asking the British government to update the UK's Computer Misuse Act, which predates the dawn of the World Wide Web. The law has been used to convict virus writers, but critics fear it may not be adequate to tackle new waves of online crime.

The EURIM proposal predates a Home Office task force, which is looking to devise a series of proposals on how to boost the nation's defenses against cyber crime.

While no accurate statistics are kept on the matter, some law enforcement officials believe the UK is a particularly hot target for online crime gangs because of the country's rapidly growing Internet population.

Original article

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