On the crest of a crime wave

Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, the head of Scotland Yard’s High Tech Crime Unit, says he and his colleagues feel optimistic about their ability to tackle computer crime. There might be a high-tech crime wave, he says, but his small unit feels “on the crest of that wave”. From what he says, though, its sounds more like a tsunami.

At a recent round-table organised by consultancy Detica, Hynds reported that his unit has arrested more than 100 people for computer crimes since it was formed. Most of those are awaiting trial. He also revealed that he is aware of 37 cases this year alone where users had revealed security details after responding to spoof emails or websites. And some 70 people, apparently, have fallen victim to the now notorious Nigerian email money scam.

Hynds gave several warnings. Among them, he said that organised crime is indisputably behind many of the scams now in operation; that trusted employees and partners are very often involved; and that human factors – and human failings – are the constant feature that make a lot of crime possible. (These failings also enable law enforcers to track the criminals.)

One of the debates at the recent Labour Party conference centred on the introduction of identity cards, which David Blunkett, the home secretary, believes will help with national security as well as tackle fraud. There are political issues to resolve first, but advocates say he is on the right lines. After all, as Hynds himself says, the way to reduce so called ‘high volume crimes’, such as credit card fraud, is simply to make it more difficult. ¥ Security software company Symantec’s latest threat report indicates a continuing increase in the sophistication and seriousness of cyber attacks, with the number of reported hacks increasing by one-fifth in the first half of 2003 alone.

Other findings in the first half of the year include :

  • 1,432 new vulnerabilities in software were uncovered, up by 12% on last year;

  • A 400% increase in attacks via instant messaging and peer-to-peer applications;

  • Four-fifths of attacks are sourced to just ten countries, including the US, China, Germany and South Korea, with the UK in 7th place;

  • 64% of attacks were targeted at vulnerabilities that were less than a year old;

  • Attack activity decreases over the weekend, with the peak period on weekdays between 1pm and 10pm.

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    Ben Rossi

    Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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