Europe losing battle against Cyber criminals

CIOL Bureau
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By Bernhard Warner

LONDON: Europe is losing out in its fight against cyber crime, a top law enforcement official said on Friday. "With cyber crime, it's become so obvious that we've lost the battle even before we've begun to fight. We can't keep up," Rolf Hegel, head of Europol's serious crime department, told the Compsec 2002 computer security conference here.

The broad threat of cyber crime has puzzled police forces around the world for years. And now there is mounting evidence that organized criminal groups are using new technologies to commit everyday crimes and some new ones.

The Internet and mobile phones have become a reliable tool for criminals, experts say, used in child pornography rings and in a hush-hush crime that is hitting the corporate world with more regularity: threatening to unleash denial of service attacks on targeted computer networks to extort money from businesses.

Police can't keep up. "We are far behind," Hegel said. Last month, Europol formed the High Tech Crime Center, a task force with a mission to co-ordinate cross-border cyber crime investigations in Europe. Hegel said the force is under-manned and under-resourced now, but he hopes it will begin to make a difference in future investigations.

There is a sense of urgency amid the law enforcement community to beef up its digital sleuthing capabilities. A coordinated attack on a clutch of central Internet root servers across the globe earlier this month has puzzled law enforcement officials, stoking fears it could be the work of an organized criminal group aiming to disrupt vital communications networks.

Hegel admitted that if such an attack targeted a European communications network today, police would have a very difficult time tracking down the culprits. The High Tech Crime Center was formed to beef up investigations into such occurrences, he added.

"We will focus our efforts on organized criminal groups," he said, but added assistance was needed from the victims who are often reluctant to share information with police for fear it will harm their business. "I hope this type of incident leads to more in-depth discussions with the victims, the companies," he said.

(C) Reuters Ltd.