Beam Me Up.

Like ‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Personal Firewall Day’, passed most of us by unnoticed. The campaign, an internet equivalent of a safe sex message, came from Microsoft and several leading security vendors as an initiative promoting the importance of firewall technology to computer users but it seemingly failed to capture the public’s imagination or interest.

On the same day, a meeting on tackling eCrime was being held in the shadow of Big Ben and I was hearing that the goal of a shared national e-crime strategy was still in the distance.

If I were to offer a jaded but independent view, I would say that it is all a very British mess. The notes I have in front of me say, “There is already significant debate on the relative priorities for law enforcement, given that their priorities are limited. Current priorities are focused on visible social issues, such as street crime on the one hand and major international criminal activity, such as drugs trafficking, on the other. White collar crime is already suffering from a lack of resource within law enforcement, leading industry to take greater responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of some offences, such as software piracy and credit card fraud, as well as ‘unacceptable activities’, relating to the protection of children which resulted in the establishment of the Internet Watch Foundation”.

What resource we have to fight Internet crime is overworked and under-funded and our social priorities appear to lie with the appointment and training of ‘Gender Awareness and Smoking Cessation officers and not more specialised Police officers. An overlapping committee process directs the battle we are already fighting in the digital badlands, with responsibilities ‘divided’ between different agencies, depending on whether the remit is critical infrastructure, eCrime, or intelligence and so on. I’m briefly reminded of the classic television series, ‘The Sweeney’ where the real entertainment lay not in watching criminals being caught as in the regular ‘punch-ups’ between the Flying Squad and Special Branch when they both arrived on-scene at the same time.

Another problem in dealing with eCrime and information security issues in general lies in the large number of different and often competing groups, forums and working parties who are involved in the process. Consultation is good but with so many different interests, all wanting to be seen to be driving the agenda, we seem to be making very little real progress tackling the growing Internet crime problem beyond a steady stream of recommendations and White Papers.

Finally, we need to return to funding and budgets. The Home Office might be keen to see the arrival of a solid eCrime strategy but this needs Ministerial support and ultimately Treasury support. The eCrime problem crosses many different departments and ministries and most of these have very little understanding or interest in a visibly growing problem.

This month, we have seen the bank of England taken to court over the BCCI affair. I wonder, if one day in the future, Government might be held accountable over its limited response to the threat from the Internet. While I recognise that tackling gun crime and having more police on the streets is a priority, as a technologist, I can read the writing on the wall, that where one person may be mugged in the street for £50.00, ten thousand people or businesses can be more easily mugged in cyberspace for a £10.00. How we can sensibly deal with this risk as a society should be viewed rather more as an urgent concern and less of a ‘wait and see’ exercise.

As Enterprise Captain James T.Kirk once said, “Now would be a good time Scotty”.


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