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Tuesday, 22 June, 1999, 10:36 GMT
Net crime prompts cyber squad call

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

A national cyberforce of computer specialists needs to be set up to combat a rising tide of online crime, according to a major report by the UK National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).

Project Trawler, a three-year study of Internet crime, concludes that illegal activity on the Net, from e-mail viruses to cyber-stalking, is increasing as the wired population grows.

It says crimes currently being committed include paedophilia, pornography, hacking, hate sites, fraud and software piracy. Criminals' use of the Net for secure communications is an emerging problem.

Encryption expertise needed

The Metropolitan Police in London has a computer crime unit, but there is no such national organisation.

MPs of the Trade and Industry Select Committee said last month there was a case for such a body in order to combat criminals using encryption to organise their illegal activities over the Internet.

NCIS says a national unit would investigate the most serious offences, develop Internet expertise and support local forces encountering sophisticated cybercrimes.

Call for international co-operation

Given the global reach of the Net, the report emphasises that international co-operation is also vital. This includes combined law enforcement operations, extra-territorial jurisdiction and consistent extradition of criminals.

Report author, David Hart, calls for more international co-operation
It points out that last year's Operation Cathedral had demonstrated the effectiveness of co-ordinated international action by law enforcement against paedophile rings. This involves both exchanging information at the preliminary stage and preventing paedophiles tipping off other ring members when arrests and seizures are made.

The creation and maintenance of a central library of known paedophilic images at an international level would both aid the search for victims and help to determine the nature of offences, it says.

Cyber complaints on the rise

NCIS suggests that filed complaints of cyber crimes have risen from 12,000 in 1997 to more than 40,000 in 1998.

Acting chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation Ruth Dixon said:

"There has certainly been an increase in reported cases to us.

"The myth of the Internet is that people think it is an anonymous medium, that they cannot be traced.

"Even though some criminals are undoubtedly using better technologies to hide themselves, which is a serious problem for the Government and police, there is still normally a trace left that will lead back to the source.
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