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Cybercrime and (no) punishment

What would you do if you were the victim of internet crime? Law-enforcement agencies will tell you that the first course of action is to visit your local police station – where you’re likely to be greeted by an officer with no tech knowledge and no inclination to follow up a complaint against a cybercriminal.

And yet all we’re hearing from this week’s Infosec conference is how net villains are a fast-growing menace who can apparently get their hands on our cash without fear of reprisal. They can outfox police by operating across borders and undercover using the anonymity of the internet.

Of course, it's difficult to know whether these super-criminals will ever target us. It’s fair to say that security companies have vested interest in scaring us out of our wits by hyping the extent of organised online crime – but it makes interesting reading nonetheless. One such firm told me a couple of years ago that the most astute web criminals maintain different identities in different countries, with numerous passports, properties and stashes of cash in various local currencies. Track down one location, and these criminals can continue their activities as usual elsewhere.

As Eugene Kaspersky told us this week, finding a long-term solution to the growing threat of organised cross-border cybercrime isn’t going to be easy. Great strides have been made in linking up police forces in various countries, but many countries may not see web crime as a priority. Others might even stand in the way (Kaspersky named Iran as a tricky proposition when it comes to working with certain countries' crime agencies).

UK officials seem to have the right idea – London’s E-crime Congress event has been banging the drum about internet threats and trying find solutions to them for many years, and many politicians see cybercrime as a dangerous problem that needs to be addressed.

At Infosec, Lord Broers, chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, has proposed a website, similar to the US Internet Crime Complaint Centre, that would enable people to report e-crimes to one central location. My suspicion is that an officer wouldn’t be monitoring and reacting to individual complaints, but it might provide a more convenient outlet for victims of small-scale net crime than having to face the indifferent attitude of a local police officer.

Nonetheless, should we all be living in constant fear of cybercrime?

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