Project Trawler -- the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) three-year study into cyber crime in the UK -- has found that paedophiles and criminals using the Net for secure communication are the two biggest problems facing law enforcement groups.
NCIS director general John Abbot called for urgent changes in legislation to cope with mounting computer crime. NCIS originally bet on key escrow to ensure the police had the powers they needed to decrypt digital information in criminal investigations. Thwarted by opposition from civil liberties organisations the government was forced to drop key escrow from its forthcoming e-commerce bill.
Abbot wants changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that would force suspects to give up decryption keys when under investigation. He is also calling for an update of the Computer Misuse Act to make the copying and theft of electronic data a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment.
Report author David Hart acknowledged these changes were not as strong as originally hoped, "Initially we wanted key escrow to be made compulsory, then voluntary and now we are asking for access to decryption keys which is only a partial solution," he said. NCIS remains hopeful this access will be addressed in the e-commerce bill, due to be published this week.
NCIS analyst Oliver Higgins admits the possibility of a 'cyber mafia' exists and that exploiting illegal gambling, fraud and money laundering on the Net is a real possibility, though some way off. "Criminal organisations could develop and exploit opportunities in respect to the Internet, but they are there to make profit and would balance that with the risk level. There is a question about whether organised crime can recruit the expertise needed for computer crime," he said.