The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has warned that if more companies do not come forward with information about cyber security breaches the service will not survive in its current form.
Speaking at the launch of new web security guidelines from the Alliance for Electronic Business, NHTCU industry liaison officer Tony Neate also said that a shake-up of the Computer Misuse Act was needed to help tackle criminal activity across the internet.
Such activity is estimated to cost $1.3 trillion a year, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"We're not looking for a quick hit but, without industry talking to us about what's going on, we're in the dark as to the true extent of the problem," explained Neate. "It's a global problem and requires a global response."
The NHTCU was set up a year ago with £25m of funding over three years, but has admitted that it has yet to prosecute anyone and has only 10 investigations underway.
Neate's call for action highlights the difficulties of encouraging the victims of security breaches to come forward and share information and best practices with their peers in the industry and the police.
The Security Alliance for the Internet and New Technologies (Saint), a security best practice sharing initiative from supplier body the Computer Software and Services Association, was announced in December last year, but John Harrison, one of its architects, admitted that getting it off the ground was proving to be a hard sell.
Although some organisations had expressed an interest in getting involved, companies have yet to commit formally and the forum has not agreed on a statement of objectives.
"There is a need but it varies depending on who you talk to," said Harrison. "Suppliers, particularly software developers, are concerned about intellectual property issues.
"We want people to tell us about criminal activity. But the secret is creating that trusted environment and that's not going to happen overnight."
Harrison agreed with Neate that, until the risk of reporting breaches outweighs the benefits of an enquiry, encouraging collaboration between companies and law enforcement authorities will continue to be an uphill struggle.
"People are starting to share information already but it's done in a very informal way," he explained. "What doesn't happen is a systematic sharing of information which helps identify trends. We want to create a relationship with the police whereby Saint can pass on information to them."
David Roberts, chief executive of the Infrastructure Forum, maintained that the concept of the NHTCU was fundamentally flawed.
"This year security is close to the top of most IT managers' agendas, but I wouldn't expect companies to talk about attacks unless they've successfully defended against them," he said. "I don't understand why the NHTCU should expect people to come forward."
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