Cybercrime 'must be taken seriously'

EURIM has said that crimes committed online need to be taken as seriously as they would be offline, in a call for an overhaul of laws relating to computer-related crime

Criminals are using computers more than crowbars according to one parliamentary lobbying group which is demanding political parties in the UK amend the laws to reflect the changing face of crime in the 21st century.

The European Information Society Group (EURIM) claims half of all crime — in financial terms — is committed using computers, either to plan, commit or process. Many people are automating old crimes, such as fraudsters who have now adopted email as a default tool for financial scams.

Philip Virgo, secretary general of EURIM, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "It is phenomenally big business."

EURIM today announced the launch of a manifesto document which implores political parties to prioritise digital crimes as they do physical, offline offences.

EURIM's manifesto claims failure to crack down on cybercrime will be to the long term detriment of society and business.

"If people perceive they are vulnerable [online] they will avoid putting themselves at risk. Perceptions of the Internet as a dangerous place inhibit growth and destroy trust in electronic services," it states.

It calls for a number of measures including proper resourcing of cybercrime-fighting efforts which EURIM says are currently in a woeful state.

Virgo also told silicon.com: "We also need to see revisions to the Computer Misuse Act brought forward. If we are to properly fight crime then we need more international cooperation and we need to see more crimes become extraditable."

The Computer Misuse Act is currently under review with recommendations to increase the severity of punishment for crimes such as hacking. An appropriate increase would elevate such crimes to a point where suspects could be extradited. Virgo believes this would be an important step in protecting UK consumers from those sat in relative safety within other countries committing crimes within UK cyberspace.

EURIM also believes the UK should use its presidency of the G8 to press for greater cross border co-operation.

Virgo added: "Either this has to be addressed or we accept that people are left to defend themselves."

While Virgo conceded many already do so, having given up long ago on the hope that legislation could ever keep pace with emerging threats, the danger is that with two-thirds of the UK now online the unprotected non-savvy users surfing the Web will perpetuate many of the problems such as Trojan recruitment of botnets.