Editorial: Support from an unexpected ally
Editorial: Support from an unexpected ally

The Government is in so much trouble at the moment that adding another failure to an already long list might seem pointless. But the Home Office's second annual report on the activities of SOCA, the much trumpeted national crime agency set up by the Blair administration, justifies the fears of many that it would ignore high-tech offences and focus on organised crime.

It has had some successes: Operation Ajowan, which investigated the global online activities of UK-based criminals trading in stolen bank, credit card and other identity information, resulted in prosecutions and another project, codenamed Elegia, identified financial and identity data being traded online.

In the foreword to the report, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claims the agency is working in the way it was asked to. For many observers, that's exactly what is wrong with it.

The public image of cyber crime is often one of a soft offence, low on violence and, if not a victimless crime, then at least one that has little human consequence apart from financial loss. Try telling that to the victims who have to deal with endlessly refused credit. Cyber crime does indeed damage ordinary lives.

Many people still see hackers as geeks indulging in a little bit on the side. Yet the readers of this magazine know the reality to be different. The gangs behind much of today's organised cyber crime are the same vicious outfits that traffic people and flood the streets with illegal drugs and guns.

The Government would do well to listen to those in information security who are calling for a return to a dedicated force that can tackle cyber crime exclusively or at least ensure that SOCA is given the resources to set up a specialised unit within it. Something like the NHTCU that was disbanded, perhaps.

Fighting drugs, guns and terrorism and succeeding make for good headlines, but by targeting cyber crime the Government would be taking out the same people. Diverting resources for short-term gain is a mistake. Perhaps it's time to tell David Cameron.

Information security budgets may get squeezed as the world's economies experiences slowdown (if not quite the dreaded “R” word), but it's difficult to know how much real effect this slowdown may have. If, as our feature Lean times (page 38) suggests, infosec professionals get smart with budgets and existing resources, it may have no effect at all. Even better, budgets may hold up against other departments as boards realise that, even in a slowdown, the one area they can't neglect is security. Unlike some at SOCA, those at the sharp end know the true threat posed by cyber crime. Looks like interesting times ahead.

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Paul Fisher is editor of SC Magazine