Cybercrime is an escalating problem that requires cooperation between international police and governments on a scale never required before, senior UK law enforcement officials warned today.
Keith Akerman, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' (Acpo) computer crime unit, said the prevelance of computer crime is widespread.
"If you imagine the drugs problem and multiply it 100 fold, that's the problem you've got with electronic crime," he warned.
The Internet is enabling a "powerful and substantial wave of crime" that the UK government is committed to tackling Charles Clarke, minister of state at the Home Office, told police and industry gathered today in London for the International High Tech Crime and Forensics Conference.
The four day conference includes closed door workshops where police officials from the UK and abroad are discussing ways to further cooperation when investigating Internet crime.
Police in attendance will also be drawing up legal guidelines for the general public, intended to steer users clear of cybercrime. These will be published on paper and online before the end of the year.
"Some people appeared to argue that the Internet allows a new world where you don't have to worry about regulations or cannot regulate because of the nature of it," said Clarke.
"I want to argue very strongly that cybercrime does exist and does have the capability to grow," he added. "Keen as we are to make the UK an environment to make ecommerce grow, we have to do it in a way that lets us challenge crime."
"Governments need to get their acts together in terms of protocols. It's no good the UK passing a law which lets X do one thing, when another country has no control," said Acpo's Akerman, pointing out that criminals could simply relocate around Europe or globally to countries with slack policies.
A "new level of international cooperation" is required between governments and police forces to combat issues such as jurisdiction, anonymity and legal boundaries, said Clarke.
Other key areas being addressed are intelligence, through the proposed creation of a National Computer Crime Unit. This will help improve detection and ways of more effectively using evidence, said Clarke.
Industry cooperation is also required, he added: "It is critical to get a constructive working dialogue between industry and all law enforcement agencies involved."
National and international legislation, especially for encryption, is also a key requirement, he added.
Internet crimes highlighted by Clarke included hacking, viruses, intellectual property offences, fraud, gambling, adult and child pornography, money laundering, harassment, hate sites and the use of the Internet for criminal communications.
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