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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Action on cyber crime 'too slow'
Governments are being left behind by cybercrime
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Governments are moving too slowly to tackle the rising tide of cyber crime, according to lobby groups and industry bodies at the G8 conference on computer criminals.

High-tech companies say governments will need their help to beat fraudsters, virus writers, malicious hackers and perpetrators of other cyber crimes. But the firms are resisting attempts to turn them into surrogate police forces and say governments need to do more by themselves.

Jean-Pierre Chevenement
Chevenement: "The internet is no longer a joke"
On the second day of the conference in Paris, French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said governments and high-tech firms should "co-regulate" the internet to ensure that there are no safe havens for computer criminals.

A new French agency to fight cybercrime starts operating today, but it is over nine months since it commissioned.

Now or never

A lobby group, the Internet Alliance, issued a white paper saying: "Law enforcement is trying to catch up with crime in cyberspace and . . . needs more resources to do so, or it will seriously fall behind and may never catch up."

In the past governments and law enforcement agencies have relied not just on industry but also enthusiastic amateurs to help track down those behind high profile crimes.

The creators of the Love Bug virus were caught with the help of Stockholm University computer expert Fredrik Björck. He also helped track down David L. Smith, the writer of the Melissa virus.

Jean François Gagné, an unemployed computer consultant from Montreal, also traced the Love Bug perpetrators using logs of ICQ, an instant-messaging program.

Prevention convention

The Council of Europe is drafting an international convention to fight hackers, virus writers and internet fraudsters.

But the convention, which is also getting input from non-EU members Japan, United States, Canada and South Africa, will not be ready for signing before September 2001.

They have to react in internet time and not government time

Aled Miles, Symantec
The internet lobby group, the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said the G8 gathering was just a talking shop and little action would result. "Nothing is getting done," said a spokesman.

He warned that G8 governments were using their sluggishness as an excuse to erode privacy. A proposal floated at the conference would make internet service providers store a year's worth of information about all the websites visited by subscribers and the email messages they sent. This could help detectives look back and find out who committed crimes.

Internet time

Aled Miles, UK managing director of anti-virus company Symantec, said that governments could do more to harmonise international laws and ensure information about online crimes was circulated quickly. He said the speed of change on the internet and its international reach was causing problems for governments.

"They have to react in internet time and not government time," he said.

One initiative likely to emerge from the conference is a global, round-the-clock system of cybercrime contacts. This would mean police or prosecutors in one country could directly contact their counterparts in another, to launch a search for a malicious hacker.

Mr Chevenement said: "A teenager must understand that, even if he is very talented in using computers, the pranks that he might make on the internet could constitute serious crimes that will put him in prison."

"The internet is no longer a joke."

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08 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Hunting e-criminals
11 May 00 | Americas
Tackling cyber crime
11 Feb 00 | UK
A - Z: Hack attack
21 Feb 00 | Business
The web detectives
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