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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 14:36 GMT
Police tackle internet crime
Computer generic
E-crime can be a big problem for some businesses
The problem of hi-tech crime against businesses across Wales is being targeted by police.

Internet crime, including virus attacks, hacking into computer systems, credit card fraud and theft of company data, is a growing problem.

A series of workshops have been held so businesses could voice their concerns.

Some 83% of UK businesses reported hi-tech or electronic crime during the past year, according to the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

Workshop dates
Tuesday, 23 November - Swansea
Thursday, 25 November - Cwmbran
Tuesday, 30 November - Llangollen
Thursday, 2 December - Carmarthen

But Detective Superintendent Chris Corcoran from North Wales Police said they did not know how big the problem was in Wales.

"It's a problem UK wide but we don't know about the problem in Wales," he said.

"I don't think it's a major problem but we're trying to be one step ahead."

There have been some high-profile examples of internet crime in Wales. In October, a 17-year-old youth from Pontypool in south Wales appeared in court after offering 45,000 worth of non-existent goods for sale on the auction site eBay.

In December 2002 a 22-year-old computer hacker from Llandudno in north Wales admitted he had infected up to 27,000 PCs across the world with a computer virus.

To try to head off such crimes in the future, a partnership has now been launched which includes all Welsh police forces, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and the Welsh Development Agency.

To help learn more about the problem a series of workshops will be held across Wales to speak to large and small business groups.

The findings will form the agenda for E-Crime Congress Wales - the first conference in Wales on hi-tech crime.

It will be held on 8 February 2005 in Cardiff.

"Hi-tech crime is the illegal exploitation of computer technologies like the internet, whether to attack the new technology itself or in order to support so-called old crimes such as fraud, identity theft and embezzlement," said Mr Corcoran.

Sharing information

"The workshops are important to crystallise the concerns of organisations in Wales.

"In the battle against hi-tech crime everyone has a responsibility to be alert, know how to protect their technology and report incidents to the relevant authorities.

"The workshops are all about how people get this information about businesses, we still write passwords on post-it notes and put them on our computers.

"We don't want to tell people what their concerns are. It's all about sharing information," he said.

Bruce Potter, of lawyers' group Morgan Cole, said the firm recognised the importance of equipping business against internet crime.

"Our experience is that providing information about the law and the business threats has to be combined with practical education for businesses and their employees," said Mr Potter.

Patrick Sullivan of the Welsh Development Agency said more Welsh businesses were taking advantage of the internet and e-commerce.

"However, hi-tech crimes can have a potentially serious impact and therefore it's essential that Welsh businesses are fully aware of the threats," he said.

We asked for your views on internet crime. Below is a balanced selection of comments. This Have Your Say is now closed:

For several years the government denied that there was any problem with spam and internet crime despite warnings from those inside the industry. Suddenly, when MPs were dragged into the 21st Century, surprise, they noticed that there was a problem. Given the government's record of breathtakingly stupid decisions on anything to do with the internet and other high-tech subjects their actions are liable to be ineffectual whilst furthering their obsessive desire to control every aspect of the lives of the citizens of this country.
Sally Marshall, Exeter

With over 10 years in the IT industry it's evident that internet crime/security is less of a problem if common sense is applied. By installing a recommended firewall and anti-virus application available from any decent computer outlet and choosing a password that is not obvious (you'd be surprised how many peoples password is "password") you can greatly reduce the amount of risk used. On the internet when entering personal details ensure you are using a secure site (identified by a closed padlock on most browsers) and don't answer queries relating to personal details via email or in chat rooms.
Ryan, Wales, Cardiff

I am head of technology for the number one company providing financial data to investment banks on MTN trades. Our network is constantly under attack from people trying to gain access to our computers, and in particular, our databases. For the police to quote something like, "I don't think it's a major problem but we're trying to be one step ahead", simply shows that they have no real understanding of the security problem businesses are facing, the severity and scale of such attacks, or any idea of how to tackle this type of crime. The police are simply not equipped or trained to trace and bring to justice the people responsible for the type of crimes they are discussing, and holding meetings with businesses isn't going to do anything useful. Hire some ex-hackers or security specialists and sort this problem out!
Rob Evans, Stoneleigh, UK

If you're going to use online banking, you should arm yourself properly for the task. You don't go to the cash point shouting your PIN. I appreciate that you shouldn't be the victim of crime just because you're unaware of the risks involved in any activity. However, I'd rather the police were focused on ensuring that the physical environment we live in was more secure.
Ky, Nottingham

My business is under constant attack from criminals attempting to do everything from trashing our computers to stealing confidential information to buying goods with stolen credit cards. The police really aren't at all interested, and since they're given no resources to deal with this kind of thing I can't say I blame them, but I'd feel happier if the government showed at least some sign that it knew what was going on in its own back yard instead of babbling on about threats from the middle east.
Ged Haywood, Alfreton, Derbyshire

In reply to the comment from Ryan in Cardiff. It is a common misconception that an anti-virus programme and firewall are sufficient to protect a computer. For instance, internet explorer and outlook have many vulnerabilities that make opening emails and simply browsing websites a risk. Trojans and spyware are poorly handled by current anti-virus software. And once inside they can disable your security measures. If you think you're safe, you probably haven't understood the vulnerabilities.
Parker Jones, ex-pat in Brussels

The banks need to look at where people get email addresses from to send fake requests for information. I have had several emails claiming to be from my bank requesting pin numbers etc. I only ever receive these from banks that I have accounts with (never hear anything from banks that I have no accounts with).
Ed Gillies, Southampton

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