Moves to cut threads of cybercrime threat
The advantage in the internet-based crime battle is currently held by organised criminals, who have the potential to wreak havoc throughout society.
Speaking at the 30th Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime earlier this month Lord Davidson QC, former solicitor general and advocate general for Scotland, told delegates that co-operation on a global scale is needed to help protect the financial sector from the ever-growing threat of cybercrime. The capacity and sophistication of criminals to exploit online financial market systems had grown dramatically and will continue to do so.
Lord Davidson, who previously worked as an analyst and an executive in the City, said that although cybercrime in relation to financial services is not highly visible, it has been estimated to have surpassed in value the illegal drugs trade.
“In the view of some commentators, it could pose not only a challenge to the financial sector but also a real threat to the stability of some banking institutions. It is unnecessary to say this is hardly a welcome prospect at this difficult time for the financial system.”
Lord Davidson hailed the establishment of the European Cybercrime Centre, to be based at Europol in the Hague, and due to begin work in January.
The Centre will link police, internet governance bodies, ISPs, internet and financial sector security companies, academic experts, and National Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs).
The European Cybercrime Centre aims to provide an early warning system for national law enforcement agencies on new vulnerabilities and on how to handle technically challenging cases. It will develop a common standard for cybercrime reporting and provide specialist advice to investigators, prosecutors and judges.
“Both the opportunities for cybercrime and the vulnerabilities of internet users are expanding. There is a rapidly evolving environment on the internet that is subject to complex threats,” he stated. “One is very much left with the impression, and not an incorrect impression, that the advantage lies with the criminal who identifies with each new technology some new vulnerability. The criminals share resources, strategies and tactics online, enabling skills and data to be traded, thereby expanding the scale of attacks that may be made on institutions. The estimates of the scale of this type of criminal activity vary, but none suggests the scale is anything but vast and global in its reach.”
Much of the defence against cybercrime had been deemed an IT responsibility by the financial sector, continued Lord Davidson, and the focus had been on preventing intrusions.
“These perceptions are now coming to terms with the need to treat defence against cybercrime as a more mainstream aspect of finance. This is both correct and welcome. The focus has also at least begun to shift towards a recognition that everyone is not only subjected to hacking, but that not every successful hacking is picked up.”
Lord Davidson told delegates he is unaware, so far, of successful criminal attempts to disrupt trading markets.
“It is not unforeseeable, however, that broader attacks to disrupt markets might come from terrorist or anarchist hackers. In this context information sharing within government, the financial sector. law enforcement and the IT industry is to be encouraged. The highly globalised nature of the threats make co-operation at a global level essential. The ease with which money can flow beyond borders and the presence of cybercriminals throughout the world requires a global perspective for law enforcement.”
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