Friday, January 16, 1998 Published at 08:24 GMT
Police baffled by computer crime
The computing industry worries that the police cannot deal with computer crime
As companies begin to defend themselves against the computer criminals, they are being told that dialling 999 to call the police will not do them any good.
In a speech to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) seminar in September 1997, Graham Saltmarsh of the South East Regional Crime Squad said the police cannot help companies beat the digital criminals. "Funding constraints will reduce the ability of police forces to support industry," he said. He recommended that companies "develop their own capabilities in investigation and intelligence gathering".
His concerns are echoed by Jonathan Sowler, head of consulting for the London computer security company JCP: "It is a very difficult area for national police forces, there are resource issues as they move into new areas."
But the CBI's concerns about the police telling business to investigate their own crimes are not purely ethical. "That does separate out the large corporations from the small companies who don't have the resources to mount an investigation," says Mr Sundt.
And while the Computer Crime squad based at New Scotland Yard is only big enough to handle a few cases, Mr Sundt believes most policemen have little idea about what to do when starting to investigate online crime. "Police forces have not got enough people geared up to understand the way computers work," he said.
Even if a computer's hard disc has been wiped it is possible to get vital clues from it, if you have the right sort of forensic software. A PC allocates 32k of hard disc space to every block of data, and it is almost impossible to completely delete it.
"They should have more people with that sort of expertise," says Chris Sundt. "If local police do not create the level of expertise to support small companies that is not an adequate response."
Computer security is a growing industry with one report predicting the market for Internet security software will reach $8.6bn by the year 2007. It may well be that just as in real life where architects and town planners are now beginning to 'design out crime', a similar tactic will be employed in an attempt to beat the digital criminals.