Internet crime is growing rapidly and the only way to combat it is with a national cyberforce, says a report from the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).
The three year report, called Project Trawler, looked into the extent computers and the Internet are used to commit crime and found that it is increasing at an alarming rate.
Reported cases of paedophilia, hate sites, hacking and viruses, software piracy and availability of illegal or restricted products and services were all found to have increased.
NCIS feels that a dedicated national unit is essential to deal with the growing problem and to prove to businesses and the public that the subject is being taken seriously.
"Serious consideration should be given to the establishment of a national investigative computer crime unit to combat the growing number of computer crimes being carried out in the UK and to identify and target emerging threats," said John Abbot, director general of NCIS.
Individual police forces have computer crime units but without a dedicated and coordinated taskforce to work at a national level they have little impact.
Abbot said the new unit will have three main roles: "The proactive investigation of the most serious crimes such as malicious computer misuse offences and covert paedophile activity, acting as a 'centre of excellence' for computer detection and evidential issues; and using its expert knowledge, to support local forces in tackling other types of IT crime in which offenders are using more advanced digital methods to accomplish their crimes."
In order to make this work it will need the cooperation of industry, law enforcement agencies, governments and users, added Abbot.
NCIS also recommends the new cyberforce have 'lawful' access to decryption keys to ensure that criminals using the technology cannot escape detection.
Abbot said there must be a "substantial disincentive" to ensure all the suspected parties comply and hand over the encryption key. He likened the situation to how a suspected drink driver can face hefty penalties if they refuse to give a breath test.
NCIS hopes the formation of such a unit in the UK will drive other countries to take action and begin work at an international level.
"The UK needs to provide some form of sensible and balanced leadership," said Abbott.
The report was sponsored by Novell. Its author, NCIS analyst David Hart, pointed out that criminal activity on the Internet is not as prolific as often reported, when put into context with crime in the real world.
However, he said preventative action now, such as a national or international cyberforce, will ensure the Internet doesn't become a, "seductive environment for criminals."
NCIS is also calling for the current Computer Misuse Act to be updated to make theft of corporate data a criminal offence.
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