The Home Office has given the go ahead for the setting up of a cyber crime unit and thrown £337,000 at the project. The high-tech unit is not expected before 2001.
The proposed unit has been under discussion since June last year, when the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), published a detailed study into cybercrime. Operation Trawler found that crime on the Net -- paedophilia, fraud and hate sites -- was an increasing problem.
The NCIS welcomed the news: "This money is for the development of the unit and we anticipate that by the end of the year we will be able to say how and where it should be established," said a spokesman. He believes that hacking and fraud will take priority over the more publicised crimes of Net gambling and paedophilia.
NCIS is also establishing a unit dedicated to decrypting criminal material. Operation Trawler discovered that criminals were turning to the Net as a way of sending encrypted messages. The NCIS spokesman is hopeful the government will give police the powers to intercept emails under its controversial RIP (Regulation of Investigatory Powers) bill. "We are more optimistic than we were," he said.
Critics have pointed out that the snooping powers proposed by the government are unlawful under European law. Industry figures are also concerned about the cost involved in setting up surveillance equipment.
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