In an effort to increase the reporting of corporate electronic crime, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has unveiled a charter detailing how such crimes will be investigated.
The Confidentiality Charter covers the investigation process in the event of an attack and stresses that all efforts will be made to limit disruption to a company's day-to-day operations and minimise damage to corporate reputations.
It is hoped that the charter will boost the reporting of e-crime so that a fuller picture of the challenges faced may be obtained by government, since at present the figures are confusing and contradictory.
"Our research over the first year of the NHTCU's existence shows that it is not the fear of reputation damage that is stopping companies reporting crime, but the fear that any investigation will disrupt day-to-day business activities," said detective chief superintendent Len Hynds, head of the NHTCU.
The charter 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 European Union'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 announcement was made at the government's first e-crime conference in London, which brought together industry security heads, police and government experts to plan strategies for dealing with e-crime.
Apart from an initial press presence the conference was closed to the media to enable a frank exchange of views.
"Electronic crime is a widespread and costly problem and it isn't going to go away," warned Bob Ainsworth MP, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Home Office, in his opening address to the conference.
"The Confidentiality Charter will be an important part of developing workings between industry and the police."
A helpline has been set up for reporting e-crime to NHTCU, available on 0870 241 0549.
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