A school has opened in Liverpool to train investigators in solving computer crime.
The move comes amid criticism that a lack of police resources is forcing companies to take the law into their own hands in the fight against cyber crime.
The Computer Forensic Training Centre, opened by computer investigative specialist Guidance Software, will teach budding PC sleuths how to uncover the digital fingerprints left behind by cyber criminals.
The Centre will train more than 500 investigators a year to tackle the use of computers by terrorists, fraudsters, blackmailers and other criminals. Cyber crime worldwide is estimated to cost a staggering £28bn a year, according to figures from German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.
Frank Butler, former head of the Merseyside Police forensic investigation unit and Guidance's European training manager, warned that companies were being forced to do more for themselves because law enforcement agencies were struggling to cope with the scale of cyber crime in the UK.
Half of Guidance's 7,000 clients are corporate customers compared with 20 per cent 18 months ago.
Butler explained: "Law enforcement is so under-resourced, which is why corporates are having to do more for themselves.
"Finding the digital evidence in the first place is only half the story. It's vital that the investigators don't make basic forensic mistakes, otherwise the evidence can't be used in court. It's a bit like remembering to wear gloves at the scene of a crime."
The trainees from police and commercial organisations across the UK and Europe will learn how to recover deleted documents, financial information and images in a manner that allows the evidence to be presented in court.
Dr Jeremy Beale, head of the ebusiness group at the Confederation of British Industry, explained that the increasing sophistication of criminals and the rapid advancement of technology meant that companies could no longer rely on the police alone to tackle the issue.
"The government needs to develop experience and provide a general framework for security, but it would be unrealistic for companies to expect the police to provide blanket security. Companies need to do a lot more for themselves," he said.
Beale also warned that the issue of security needed to be taken seriously at board rather than IT level. "You can't assume you have perfect security. There's no such thing. It's a question of managing the risks you have," he maintained.
But others have said that companies' hands are being forced because attempts by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) to address cyber crime are inadequate.
Chris McNab, technical director at information risk management firm Matta Security, explained that public sector bodies are struggling to recruit computer crime specialists because they are paid less than the private sector.
"Even if you have audit trails of your computer system, it's not enough to prosecute," he said. "You have to contact the NHTCU which then has to come in and launch its own investigation. It can take months and it relies on the hacker coming back into your system."
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