Cyber-crime gets easier

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Cyber-crime gets easier

Last month’s launch of the government’s new Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was welcomed by many commentators. With a growing threat from international drug gangs and the rise in people trafficking, a need was seen for a national agency with the teeth to tackle organised crime and the human misery it causes.

There was even a tinge of excitement at the prospect of Britain getting its own FBI-style agency with similar sweeping powers (indeed, SOCA's badge is most American in style).

SOCA incorporates the existing National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the investigative branches of HM Revenue and Customs and the Home Office Immigration Service. It's a pretty powerful grouping and one that Tony Blair believes will, in his words, make life "hell for the Mr Bigs", and has the cash to back the threat up.

It's dramatic stuff, but missing from much reporting was the incorporation of another existing, and effective, crime-busting unit into SOCA: the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU).

The NHTCU website is already closed with a message directing people to SOCA. For those who believe that IT-related crime is a highly specialised sector and one that needs similarly specialised people to tackle it, this is bad news. "We've gone back 10 years" is the verdict of Simon Janes, international operations manager at IBAS.

"The NHTCU has been reduced to a supporting role – it robs it of its funding and its future," he says.

The official line is that computer crime can be dealt with by local police forces, but many question how able and willing regional forces will be to deal with it. Too, IT crime is no respecter of locality or boundaries.

NHTCU's work has not so much been incorporated as subsumed. SOCA's website and literature barely mentions high-tech crime in its remit. Yet it's known that international gangs are behind an increasing number of phishing and other internet scams.

Of course computer crime isn't just the work of organised gangs. But who's going to protect business and individuals from more prosaic electronic threats?

With the effective abolition of a high-tech crime unit in the UK, life just got a little bit easier for the e-criminal community.

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition

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