Businessmen and politicians in Silicon Valley are pleading with the FBI for more help in putting a stop to high-tech thefts, reportedly costing them around $1 million (#700,000) a week.
Despite a major FBI operation last year, which all but eradicated invasion-style robberies at Silicon Valley computer chip warehouses and manufacturers, other types of thefts have not stopped.
Now the gangs are tracking down and breaking into delivery vans, and making off with between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of chips or computer components at a time, according to the San Jose Police Department's high-tech squad.
The FBI Computer Crime Division estimates the average cost of a high-tech theft is $500,000. The biggest robbery occurred two years ago at Centron Electronics in Irvine, California, when thieves made off with a reported $12 million worth of kit.
Ironically, some US manufacturers end up buying back their stolen components.
Most of the components lack serial numbers, making it difficult to trace them back to their original owners. It is believed a large proportion of the stolen chips are sent overseas to Asian computer manufacturers, who are believed to incorporate them in their own equipment before selling them back to the US.
Against such a worrying background, US manufacturers are now looking for greater assistance from the authorities. However, the FBI argues suppliers could do more to help themselves, as many don't even bother reporting the thefts.
According to a recent survey by the Computer Security Institute, only 17% of high-tech crime victims report the incident to police. Around 65% of the respondents said fear of negative publicity was the primary reason for not reporting the crime.
Commenting on the report, Charles Matthews, associate special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco Office, said: "I am concerned that there appears to be a reluctance on the part of the private sector to report allegations of computer crime to law enforcement agencies."
Losses in the UK are also alarming. According to a study by KPMG, security breaches and the cost of recovering from them costs UK companies around u3.5 billion every year.
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