The UK's first e-crime congress opened on Monday, gathering the heads of IT security in government, industry and the police to develop a long-term programme to fight electronic crime.
The congress, hosted by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), coincides with the launch of a new Confidentiality Charter, which sets out what organisations should expect in terms of police co-operation if they are attacked, and gives them guarantees of confidentiality.
Detective chief superintendent Len Hynds, head of the NHTCU, said: "It is essential that commercial organisations are given assurances that they can report attacks without the fear of adversely affecting their business.
"Two-thirds of companies prefer to deal with these problems in-house; a short-term and dangerous approach."
The charter is the first attempt to formalise the process of investigating e-crime in a business setting, and address the problem of companies failing to report offences.
It was designed with input from the Confederation of British Industry and the Crown Prosecution Service.
In some cases the police may decide not to prosecute offenders so long as no major crime or violation of the EU's human rights legislation has taken place.
"We welcome this new initiative to make businesses feel more comfortable with reporting e-crime," said Jonathan Cummings, director of e-marketing at the Institute of Directors. "However, many businesses are still unaware of the specific dangers they face.
"Focus must necessarily be on raising awareness of such dangers, in order that businesses may put suitable precautions in place."
The latest survey of e-crime for UK businesses conducted by the NHTCU, released at the congress, found that 87 per cent of those surveyed had been attacked in the last year, with 90 per cent believing e-crime was a serious threat to the survival of their businesses.
But 10 per cent said they would not ask for any form of police involvement if they were attacked.
"The police cannot effectively tackle high-tech crime in isolation," said Bob Ainsworth MP, junior Home Office minister in his opening address to the conference. "We need your help in reporting crime and aiding the police."
The level of involvement of organised criminals in new technology has never been higher, according to the NHTCU.
Gangs are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of technology, and where they do not have the skills they are buying them in from the technical community.
DCS Hynds cited the case of an organised ring of child pornographers that had hidden a pay-to-view site on the servers of a legitimate company.
But he added that, with a few minor exceptions, the existing legal framework was sufficient to give police the powers they needed.
Confidentiality Charter pledges
- Enquiries will be carried out to minimise disruption to business.
- All exchanges of information will be kept confidential.
- Where information needs to be shared with others it will be sanitised.
- Sources will receive absolute protection.
- The NHTCU will distribute intelligence bulletins to industry on new threats.
- There will be active support for risk assessment procedures.
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