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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 10:47 GMT
Cybercrime: Does it put you off using the internet?

Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities. It covers a wide range of illegal activity from financial scams, computer hacking and virus attacks to downloading pornographic images.

Criminals are able to hack into computers holding personal details, and then use them to gain control of bank accounts and credit cards. It is one of the biggest crimes in the US.

In a survey for BBC News Online more than 90% of respondents thought there should be more controls over the internet to help prevent fraud, pornography and paedophilia.

Are put off using the internet because of the threat of cybercrime? Do you think there should be more controls over the internet? Will legislation - such as the UK's RIP bill or European cybercrime treaty - threaten our civil liberties?

This Talking Point is part of a week of a series of crime specials. Click to read your comments on Yob Culture, Tagging, Miscarriages of justice and Organised crime.

This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.


Government trying to introduce censorship through the back door by scaremongering about security. What gets me is the public still falls for it.
Mark B, UK

If you imagine the Internet like a large neighbourhood. There is always going to be some sort of criminal activity. All that can be done is to try to limit it. I can't see why people make such a fuss over credit card fraud, when it is just as easy for the guy in the shop to take your number down on a piece of paper.
D Griffiths, UK


We can try to make it more difficult for the hackers but I'm afraid that we won't be able to beat them

Helmut E. Maier, US
Helmut E. Maier, US Just look at the "break-ins" hackers were able to achieve so far. Government sites, commercial sites (Microsoft) were all successfully targeted. So, why should anyone trust those assurances of a "secure connection"? We can try to make it more difficult for the hackers but I'm afraid that we won't be able to beat them. (Sorry, Alex Banks, the UN is the last place to go for help to stop abuse of the Internet.)
Helmut E. Maier, US

Criminals have always used the most modern technologies to facilitate crimes and will continue to do so. We can never stop this, but by educated information we can make it more difficult for these people to carry out their activities.
Andrew (British living in NL), Netherlands

If fraud occurs because I handed over my credit card, say, to a shopkeeper, it is possible to limit the potential suspects to the employees of the shop and of the credit card company. If a fraud is perpetrated because I used it on the Internet, the circle of suspects widens to persons unknown, and to domiciles beyond where the legal jurisdiction of my abode may not extend. Not being familiar with the lanes and by-lanes of cyberspace I do not know where the mugger is and which cyber highway robber will be targeting me next. Does the police have sufficient IT resources to trace the culprits in such situations?
Mohan Singh, India

When we had the good old British postal service, mail order publications, and our own common sense, paid for with hard earned real money that we had, not borrowed, we were fine. Some old ways are the best you know!
H Wentworth, Devonshire, England

"Does street crime stop you from using the street? " asked Rab Stallard. Well, the answer is yes. People do not walk in the night to enjoy a quiet and starry evening any more they hide in buildings or their cars and watch a dumb TV and pretend they have a life.
Christian, UK

Caveat empor applies on the internet as elsewhere. No amount of consumer protection legislation will protect the foolish in an international market - nor should it.
Maurice, England


Some form of international effort to take the hacking tools off-line would serve us far better

Steve, UK
I think that the Bill focuses on the wrong aspect of cybercrime. The number of people with the actual skill to hack a "secure" is very low. The problem is that some of these skilled individuals will create tools that allow any body to search for security weaknesses and publish them on the web. You then get relatively non-technical "script kids" downloading hacking tools. Some form of international effort to take the hacking tools off-line would serve us far better than monitoring all internet traffic. There's no way a Bill to tap every telephone conversation would ever have got this far. One last point, the systems they use to monitor the net will become the number one target for hackers everywhere.
Steve, UK

I think internet crime is a small price to pay for a medium with absolute freedom of expression, freedom of what kind of images you are allowed to view, freedom of what you are allowed to copy or share. If companies suffer then so be it. Why should everything in this world be based around the interests of money-making corporations?
James Pittman, England

Which would you rather (and which have you actually done)? Give your credit card details out over the phone to someone on 3.60 an hour, with no guarantee that they are not copying down the details; or put them into a machine, belonging to a reputable company, which will encode and protect those details.
James Coyle, Wales

It's funny that so much attention is being paid to "Internet Crime". The Internet is a medium of communication that can be abused like any other. The big difference is that governments everywhere are scared of having something that they do not "yet" control. The UN, by the way, is the last organisation I would trust to enforce a set of guidelines. Don't be so gullible people.
Rajeev Dutt, Germany

The biggest 'cybercrime' is BT's monopoly.
Domini Connor, UK

I work for one of Britain's largest IT Consultants. Security to us is a very serious problem and it is virtually impossible to make any system full proof. However knowing this fact does not put me off buying on-line. Khan is right buying on-line is still safer than paying in a shop or restaurant. There needs to be an international organisation with international powers to stop cyber crime, the net is still safer than walking to the shops.
David, United Kingdom


Credit cards are insured against fraud, and as long as you use common sense and only give details to reputable sites, through secure servers, you will never have a problem

Phil, UK
I have no problem buying goods over the internet with a credit card. Credit cards are insured against fraud, and as long as you use common sense and only give details to reputable sites, through secure servers, you will never have a problem. As for hackers intercepting transactions and 'stealing' credit card numbers, is laughable. It would take so much effort for someone to do this, it simply wouldn't be worth the effort.
Phil, UK

Personally, I feel we have less to fear from organised criminals, but a lot more to fear from government agencies who view "cybercrime" as just another excuse to monitor, police and control the use of the net by individual citizens.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

I have been shopping over the web for 4 years and I do 99% of my shopping this way (not big on human interaction at the shops) and I have never had a problem with any form of payment, including direct credit transfers. It is like anything, be aware of the risks but do not allow the risks to control you.
Jen, UK


Providing the Internet is used in a sensible way, there is no reason why you will ever run into trouble

Jeremy Ainsworth, England
I believe that the Internet is by far the safest method of paying for goods and services. I would certainly not trust another human with my credit card details, especially when written down on paper in an office. When using your card online, it is very highly encrypted.
The majority of people are afraid to use the internet because of the media and articles about hacking and fraud. Providing the Internet is used in a sensible way, there is no reason why you will ever run into trouble.
Jeremy Ainsworth, England

No! The Internet is a reflection of the needs and aspirations of a free society. Parts of it might be frequented by the criminal fraternity, but I have no reason to come into contact with those areas.
Andy Millward, UK

Make the Net safer - Yes! But, by making software and hardware suppliers be more security aware and fine them if proven that their products don't comply with pre-imposed regulations.
Control the Internet regarding material available - absolutely not! Unfortunately we cannot trust governments to do so, as next thing our freedom will be much shorter. Some use the excuse of pornography, etc.. to manipulate public opinion about the strict control of Net material. Before the Net was available, to the masses, pornography and other type of materials still found it's way to the public. I am definitely against any measure proposed by governments (with their secretive agendas), regarding control of the Internet!
John Costa, UK

The Internet is a fascinating piece of human ingenuity, that should not be suppressed of involvement by mechanism such as the RIP bill.
Anthony Pillay, Seychelles (Studying in the UK)


Did you know that taking credit card details over the internet is less safe for the retailer than accepting your card over the counter?

Andrew Brook, UK
Did you know that taking credit card details over the internet is less safe for the retailer than accepting your card over the counter? Most correspondents so far point out that the customer is now protected but they have always been protected against fraudulent use of their card.
Unless a retailer is able to compare the signature on the card with the signed receipt they have no protection what so ever. We are meant to confirm cardholder's addresses for 'Cardholder not present' transactions, but if the customer is outside of the UK the only check is on whether the card is reported as stolen.
Andrew Brook, UK

No, cybercrime does not put me off using the internet. I am more worried about handing my credit card over in a restaurant than sending the details over a secure web connection. And if you have the right card then the credit card company protects you against any losses due to fraud. My experience of shopping on the internet have so far been excellent.
David Bates, UK

I wish people would quit whinging about pornography. If as a responsible adult I choose to download this material that's my business and nobody else's - it's no different to buying a top-shelf magazine from a newsagent. What needs to be addressed is specifically child porn, and crimes relating to fraud and intimidation. I use the net as much as ever, I simply make sure that I carefully screen anything that comes from the net, such as active scripts and cookies.
John B, UK


You're just as likely to be the victim of credit card fraud when using your card at a store as you are on the internet

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
You're just as likely to be the victim of credit card fraud when using your card at a store as you are on the internet ... probably more so! Granted, some internet locations may not yet have the level of sophistication in their security fire-wall, but then the same can be said for stores who still use carbon-copied credit card vouchers. As usual, common sense and sensible precautions usually win the day.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Does street crime stop you from using the street?
Rab Stallard, UK


What is it about the internet that makes people panic so?

Khan, UK
What is it about the internet that makes people panic so? They'll happily read their credit card details down the telephone, hand over their card in restaurants, or post forms by snail mail detailing all their card info - the risk is even higher with those methods of payment. Existing fraud and theft laws cover credit card crime - the medium through which the crime occurs doesn't need special legislation. Leave the internet alone.
Khan, UK

I will use the internet to shop for things from companies I know, and who also have real shops so you know there is someone to contact if things go wrong. I also prefer the sites that let you download an order form and send it off with a cheque. As delivery takes forever for most sites there is not really any time lost by posting an order. I won't use it for banking, or to shop from unknown companies as things are not secure enough. Last year I had over 1500 taken from my account by someone using my card details to go on an internet shopping spree.
Graeme, England

Those who claim internet banking is safe do not understand the risks. The major one is not hacking into the (fairly well protected) servers of banks and credit card companies, so much as hackers accessing data as it leaves your home PC. The internet is wonderful but the public internet is not a good medium for business and finance.
Ian O, UK

No, crime does not put me off using the internet anymore than it puts me off walking down the street or driving my car. I'm just a little more careful than I used to be.
Alex, NZ (ex-pat)

The task of controlling what is published or downloaded from the internet is not an easy one. There would be a lot of resistance as people see it as their right for freedom of speech.
Peter Hall, England

Cybercrime is not really an issue. If items are bought using your credit/ debit card, it is more likely that the number was generated randomly by the hacker, as opposed to 'stolen' - a measure that the media hypes up beyond ever happening. The internet is safe to order over. If nothing else, your credit card is protected with purchases over 50. As for the RIP bill - I'm still amazed that a Labour Government is so keen on taking away civil liberties.
Tom B, England


I think that in the main the internet is fairly safe provided you observe a little common sense

Toby Nichols, UK
I think that in the main the internet is fairly safe provided you observe a little common sense. On the other hand most credit card providers are now providing cover against such fraud so we are protected to a certain degree. What would put me off using the net would be the RIP bill. While I am sure it would help the Government fight cyber crime, it could also be abused and innocent people put through hell for no good reason. Only when the Government and police show us they are responsible and trustworthy, should we allow this bill to be implemented.
Toby Nichols, UK

No, I'm not put off using the internet but I make sure I use reputable (generally larger) companies who should have the resources to monitor their security. There is crime everywhere. Is the risk of cybercrime any greater than being pickpocketed on the Underground, mugged in the street? The actual 'theft' is probably less traumatic too
Dom Melaragni, UK

We need to have an international body (maybe controlled by the UN) to develop and enforce an agreed set of guidelines. This will help prevent abuse of the internet. This is not a UK problem, it's not a European problem, it's a worldwide one and only something like the UN can stop it.
Alex Banks, Wales, Living in Sweden

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See also:

18 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Cybercrime treaty condemned
11 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
ISPs RIP warning
25 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Watching while you surf


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