Election sparks calls for cybercrime minister

The future of cybercrime fighting in the UK is up in the air, as next month's election could derail the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

Tony Blair's decision to call a general election on 5 May has sparked a debate among delegates at the e-Crime Congress 2005 in London, with some arguing that the government should create an e-crime minister.

"It would be good for enforcing regulations and legislation," said Chris Watson, a former policeman and senior investigation manager for digital forensics company IBAS. "It's not a vote winner, but someone in government should be more proactive to help businesses combat e-crime."

However, others felt the government needed to get its own house in order before attempting to help the public. The Department for Trade and Industry is pushing BS7799, a British Standard for security best practice, but one expert has warned that government departments are failing to pass the test.

"Government departments need to bite the bullet and show they are protecting secure information," said Alan Phillips, director of 7Safe, a training company the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) uses to train its staff. "Some department in the NHS and local government have been told to implement [BS7799] by 2005, but many are way behind."

More than 1,000 companies around the world have implemented BS7799.

The calling of the election also forced the designated director general for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Bill Hughes, to pull out the conference. This was due to the fact that civil servants are banned from talking about party policies during an election, and because the parliamentary bill for the creation of SOCA has not yet been agreed it is still considered a Labour party initiative

Should Labour lose the election, SOCA — which is intended to deal with cybercrime — could be cancelled.

"The bill hasn't been passed yet," said detective superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the NHTCU. "So he's excluded from talking about it." The NHTCU was unable to comment further on the matter.

Under these election rules, government ministers were also prevented from speaking at the event.

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