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UK firms angry over lack of concern over cybercrime

British industry leaders have called for urgent government intervention over the failure to deal with escalating online crime.

The UK's largest corporations are being told to report multimillion pound international cybercrime incidents to their local police stations.

The Confederation of British Industry said that the situation is a shambles. "The CBI is calling for a national debate to raise awareness of this issue and who will be responsible for dealing with it, and that will need to be backed by the prime minister," said Dr Jeremy Beale of the CBI's e-business group.

According to Beale, the debate should be determine the core of a National Information Security Strategy to deal with all aspects of e-crime.

The CBI is not alone in expressing dissatisfaction. Influential figures in the British computer industry added their voices to the growing chorus of concern over the failure to prevent or detect e-crime.

Apacs, which speaks for the clearing banks, has publicly expressed its frustration that no one appears to have taken over the duties of the UK's former e-crime fighting squad, the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which was absorbed last year into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (The shambles over cybercrime, July 5). Now IT leaders have called for the re-establishment of the NHTCU.

"A lot of trust was built up between large businesses and the NHTCU, and that took a lot of time to develop," says Ollie Ross, head of research at the Corporate IT Forum. "Just when that structure seemed to have reached fruition, it was taken away and nothing has filled its place. There is no reporting mechanism now."

Businesses say they feel marooned and angry at what they perceive as a lack of interest from the police.

As cybercrime attacks can be large and costly, businesses feel that they should be met with a big response - the virtual equivalent of bobbies on the beat. But that has not been happening.

Instead figures for the UK, which mainly deal with business losses, have shown the sort of steady increase that would not be tolerated on the high street.

Last year, 84% of large companies surveyed by researchers for accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that they had suffered a malicious attack on their computers between 2004 and 2006.

According to the report, the average loss for businesses was between £65,000 and £130,000, with the largest companies reporting losses of around £1m.

As David Lacey of the Jericho Forum says, one of the other invaluable functions of the NHTCU was its superb outreach. "It is not there any longer to educate the public and it was very good at that. The NHTCU was very good at communicating. Now there's nowhere to go and that needs to be fixed."

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