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United We Stand – Digitally Divided We Fall

In the coming week, London witnesses a gathering of experts from business, finance, law-enforcement and industry from every corner of the globe. They are here to explore the growing problem of hi-tech crime and what can be done to combat the threat it presents to individuals and a fragile digital economy.

The eCrime Congress has been organised in partnership with the National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and for two days, the Hong Kong Police, The ‘Mounties’, the Met, Interpol, The Department of Homeland Security, FBI and many others, can exchange ideas and information with the Chief Security Officers of the largest international banks and hear both Government and opposition views on the subject.

Can such a gathering make a difference? EURIM’s Philip Virgo has wryly commented, “The only thing saving the information economy from complete collapse, is that organized crime wishes to milk the cow and not kill it” and it is this concern over the growing involvement of organized crime on the Internet that now unites law-enforcement and business across the world.

In the face of fraud, extortion, ‘phishing’ hacking, viruses and worms, the concept of ‘partnership’ has become the watchword in 2004. Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, Director of the NHTCU believes that “With the Internet privately-owned, it’s absolutely essential that a partnership between Government and industry exists to respond to threats from the electronic frontier”. In expressing this opinion, he is finding support from business. “The only way in which we are going to make a collective impact on eCrime”, says Paul Wood MBE, the Managing Director and Chief Security Officer of UBS Investment Bank, “Is when government and industry really start working in partnership rather than in isolation”.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic the experience is no different and Chris Painter, the Deputy Chief - CCIPS, (Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section) at the US Department of Justice argues,” A partnership between the government and the private sector is essential to any effective response to the growing threat posed by electronic crime. Given the speed of advancing technology and the unique and often differing skills law enforcement and industry bring to the table, cooperation expands our tool set and maximizes our chance of success. In addition, partnership fosters trust, the foundation to any program to combat e-crime”.

But can partnership prove effective as a defence against a largely unrestricted environment of the size of the Internet? Bill Thompson the information security investigator at Orange PCS believes “Industry and law enforcement see eCrime from different perspectives but sharing experiences and information are of vital importance if we are to succeed in fighting this new threat”.

Looked upon from the outside however, partnership against crime on the Internet may offer sound common sense, a circling of the wagons against a largely unseen enemy but it also conjures up the proverb, ‘United we stand. Divided we fall’.

With 2004 expected to prove the worst year to date in the story of rising of crime on the Internet, we can only hope that through the exchange of intelligence, ideas and techniques, business and law-enforcement, can find the common ground that will one day lead to a safer and more trustworthy Internet environment. It has never been more urgently needed than it is today and tomorrow may be too late.


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