UK police help fight outsourcing cybercrime

Faced with incidents such as UK bank details being sold from India, the UK police and the 53 nations of the Commonwealth get together to keep outsourcing free from crime

The Metropolitan Police and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) have joined forces to set up a working party to tackle the increasing threat of global cybercrime especially in offshoring companies.

The main aim of the working party will be to increase the cooperation between members of the commonwealth to exchange best practices on tackling specialist crime such as identity theft and compromised data security.

"The Commonwealth is a voluntary group of 53 nations which just happens to include all the major nations offering offshore outsourcing services such as IT and contact centres," said Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, global research director of CBC Technologies. "We would like to invite governments, private sector and trade bodies from across the world to join this very important initiative."

The recent spate of cases involving identity theft and compromised data security in offshore call centres emphasises the need for government and industry collaboration at an international level, according to the CBC.

The most high-profile case to date follows an investigation by an undercover reporter from The Sun  who was sold the bank account details of 1,000 UK customers by a call centre worker in India.

The journalist was able to buy bank account, credit card, passport and driving licence details of UK bank customers for just £4.25 each.

The call centre worker in New Delhi also told the reporter he could supply confidential data from 200,000 accounts per month. The newspaper handed a dossier with all the details to the City of London police.

But the director general of the CBC, Dr Mohan Kaul, claimed that it was unfair to focus too much attention on security breaches in India as such problems are not limited to one region. "Because India captures the bulk of global offshore outsourcing deals, the probability of such cases happening there is higher than that in other destinations," he said. "In fact destination is irrelevant. Similar cases have happened all over the world. The ones in India are negligible compared to some incidents involving millions of dollars. "

India's National Association of Software and Services Companies is also taking part in the working party. The organisation's vice-president, Sunil Mehta, said his country takes economic crime extremely seriously and was actively involved in training local law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem. "Our entire end is to see that the issue of IT security doesn't become an incipient trade barrier to Indian business," he said.

The first meeting of the working party should be in September and over the next three months the CBC will encourage private and public sector participation in the programme while the Metropolitan Police provides direction and intelligence. "Economic crime is victimless and thus does not trigger immediate action, but inflicts heavy costs on the industry," said Tarique Ghaffur, assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police.

Tarique claimed that the total cost to the UK alone of economic crime last year was around £723m. He claimed that criminals often use London as a hub for launching schemes in the rest of the country or Europe.'s Andy McCue contributed to this report.