A former US intelligence technology specialist has warned of the need for a dedicated cybercrime taskforce in the UK.
Bret Hartman, chief technology officer at security company RSA and former IT specialist with the National Security Agency, described the battle between authorities and online fraudsters, terrorists and other cybercriminals as an "arms race".
Hartman told ZDNet.co.uk sister site silicon.com that law enforcement has to "stay one step ahead" of its "adversaries" and needs to "be armed with the right technologies and understanding".
The UK used to have a dedicated police body for fighting e-crime — the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) — but this was rolled into the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in April 2006.
An e-petition calling for the return of a dedicated unit was set up in the wake of the spate of government data breaches which began with the loss of 25 million child-benefit records by HM Revenue & Customs.
Hartman said that, with online scams worth billions of dollars and the growth of state-sponsored hacking of corporate and national infrastructures, the need for specialised units has never been greater.
"Certainly within the US, there are specialised units within the FBI. There's no question that threats in that area will continue to grow. It's a cat-and-mouse game; you have to stay one step ahead of your adversary," Hartman said.
Hartman added: "People on the good guys' side need to be armed with the right technologies and understanding of what the threats are."
The decision to merge NHTCU with SOCA was unpopular and, in August 2007, a House of Lords committee urged the government to do more to tackle e-crime or risk losing public confidence in the security of the internet.
Businesses have also called for a dedicated police cybercrime unit.