UK has wrong focus on cybercrime

The UK Government should focus more funds on policing the internet and less on anti virus software and snopping according to new research.Computer scientists at the University of Cambridge carried out the cybercrime study after being approached by the UK’s Ministry of Defence. The report Preventing Cybercrime: Not Worth the Effort? indicated that the UK was spending almost £640 million annually on the problem.

It said less than £10 million of that sum was spent on cybercrime law enforcement with anti-virus software sucking up too much security cash claims study.

The study reinforces a Cheltenham Science Festival seminar on Cybersecurity which I attended last week.

The two main speakers Ian Goslin from Cassidian- a software security spin off from EADS and Martin Sadler from HP Labs forecast a frightening growth of hacking over the next five to eight years- with between 10 million and 30 million hackers.

Their principal targets will be apps- of which Google’s Andriod is particularly suspect as they do not check the new systems.

The cyber team considered all the main types of cybercrime, including online payment and banking fraud.

Lead author Prof Ross Anderson said that less government money should be spent on monitoring phone and internet communications.

He said that police in the UK were often months behind and too focussed on surveillance, because resources had been misallocated.

“Some police forces believe the problem is too large to tackle,” he said.

“In fact, a small number of gangs lie behind many incidents and locking them up would be far more effective than telling the public to fit an anti-phishing toolbar or purchase anti-virus software.

Cybercrooks impose disproportionate costs on society. Cybercrime has created a swamp,” he added. “You need to drain the swamp by arresting people.”

Prof Anderson also recommended improving consumer protection legislation for victims of credit card fraud.

He said that the fear of fraud by businesses and consumers was leading some to avoid online transactions, imposing an indirect cost on the economy.

He noted that consumers in countries like the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland enjoyed much stronger protection.