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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 14:11 GMT
Net forum tackles cybercrime boom

By Helen Clegg
In Rio de Janeiro

Pile of US dollars, Eyewire
Many fear the net will become a conduit for laundering money
While many at the UN Internet Governance Forum were debating how to get more people using the net, as many are worried about how to protect those who already use it.

"How many of us feel secure online every day? We're not safe at all but we can't live a day without the internet," asked Yoshinori Imai of Japanese broadcaster NHK opening the 'security' debate at the forum.

Security is one of five big themes discussed at the conference alongside critical net resources, access, diversity and openness

As one of the central topics at the conference the issue is seen as pressing whether security is taken to mean fraud, money laundering, hate speech, terrorism or crimes against children.

But some, such as Ralf Bendrath, a political scientist from the University of Bremen, warned against blaming the internet for what people do on it.

"Just because a crime appears on the internet doesn't mean it's an internet problem," he said.

But pointed out Marco Gercke, a lecturer in law at the University of Cologne, the net did have some unique aspects that deserved attention.

Said Prof Gercke: "The internet enables ways of distribution that do not exist in the real world.".

Fractured net

Forum delegate Alan Michael worried that the speed of change on the net and its global reach the net would outrun security controls.

Co-operation between governments is essential in the adoption of preventative steps without losing sight of each country, each culture, each nation
Antonio Tavares
He said: "The speed and penetration of the internet means that a fractured approach can never keep up."

Implementing security policies that all nations will support and administer generated much discussion.

National laws, fractured police forces and an unwillingness to prosecute had all stymied efforts at co-ordination said delegates.

"95% of crimes committed on the internet in Brazil are provided for by legislation," said to Antonio Tavares, of Brazil's Internet Steering Committee.

"But," he added, "the problem is implementing the legislation."

Thiago Tavares of SaferNet Brasil said the fragmentation of police forces in Brazil was making this problem worse.

International co-operation was also vital, said Markus Kummer. "The borderless nature of the internet makes co-operation among law enforcement extremely difficult."

Cybercrime code

The conference did highlight the positive steps already taken on internet security.

Much mention was made of the Convention on Cybercrime created by the human rights oriented Council of Europe.

Birds on border wires, AFP
The net helps crime cross borders, say IGF delegates
This came into force on 1 July, 2004 and is the only binding international document on this issue. So far it has 43 signatories and can be signed by those outside Europe.

"We need some framework that should be implemented that gives space for national adjustment but gives guidelines for countries to harmonize their laws," said Prof Gercke who also spoke on behalf of the Council of Europe.

He said: "The convention on cybercrime has been implemented in various different countries with different legal systems and it works."

"For example," he added, "Bulgaria was one of the hot spots for computer-related fraud and today the offenders are not operating from there because they realise they have the right instruments in place".

Also mentioned at the session was the protocol on xenophobia and racism committed through computer systems which came into force on 1 March, 2006.

Future gazing

For some, solving the problem of cybercrime was a matter of self-regulation and more end-user education.

Huang Chengqing, secretary general of the Internet Society of China, said: "Security is a kind of balance." He added that there was a need for prevention to stop people causing problems as much as for remedies for when bad things happen.

Teenager using computer, SPL
More needs to be done to protect children who go online
Other delegates took up the theme of education and how children and adolescents need to be targeted to stop them being involved in cybercrime either as victims or perpetrators.

"There must be a huge effort in education; it is not enough to provide schools with computers and broadband┐ often children and adults know more than their parents" said Antonio Tavares from Brazil.

Protecting children was a priority, said Mr Tavares.

"All of us must be aware to take care of our children," he said. "There needs to be co-operation among cultures, languages local authorities and governments."

"Co-operation between governments is essential in the adoption of preventative steps without losing sight of each country, each culture, each nation," he said.

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