Cyber Crime

This week, a constituent wrote to me about an internet scam that is attempting to defraud people who use bitcoins, an internet currency.

Technology has played a massive role in tackling traditional forms of crime.  The DNA database, CCTV and security systems in cars and homes have all contributed.

The growth of the internet has also transformed our everyday lives and is an important part of our economy.

The internet-related market in the UK is now estimated to be worth £82 billion a year, and British businesses earn £1 in every £5 from the internet.

But with greater interconnection comes greater vulnerability, and technology has also opened up the possibility of new forms of crime.  93 per cent of large corporations and 87 per cent of small businesses reported a cyber breach in the past year.

The cost for each breach is estimated between £450,000 to £850,000 for large businesses and £35,000 to £65,000 for smaller ones.

I also worry about online scams such as fake e-mails which can prey on people, especially the vulnerable.

As well as these types of online crimes, the internet can also be used to facilitate drug dealing, people smuggling and many other ‘traditional' types of crime.

This presents a growing problem for the law enforcement agencies, which do not have the same ability to monitor these forms of communication as they do ordinary telephone calls.

There is also the threat of cyber-attack which could disable government or key institutions.  It's striking that the National Security Strategy categorises cyber attacks as a Tier One threat to our national security, alongside international terrorism.

Considerable resources are now being deployed to fight cyber crime.  The new National Crime Agency, launched last year, includes a Cyber Crime Unit.

The Government has also launched a new campaign - Be Cyber Streetwise - to raise awareness about this new area of criminality and to offer advice on how to combat it.  Sussex Police have a Hi Tech Crime Unit to trace and solve cyber-crime.

There is also a new, single reporting system for people to report financially motivated cyber crime through Action Fraud, a national 24/7 fraud and internet crime reporting centre.

The trend towards these new forms of crime will continue.  More will have to be to protect us all in future.

Christopher N Howarth