One Year Ago: Report: UK Set for Cybercrime Surge


Originally published on August 28, 2000 and brought to you today as a time capsule.


A new survey released by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) predicts that cybercrime — including Internet fraud, e-mail abuse, hacking, and viruses — will increase over the next 20 years.

The report, “Future Crime Trends in the United Kingdom,” comes days after three men were arrested for using bogus accounts to steal money from Egg, one of Britain’s most high-profile online banks. Although the thieves reportedly only got away with “a handful of thousands of pounds” and did not take money from individual customer accounts, the incident added to rising concern over security in online banking.

“Access to information has improved tremendously over the past few years, and will continue to do so in the future. But these developments are not cost-free,” said Mary Francis, ABI’s Director General.

Francis added that technological advances “carry with them the risk of potentially very dangerous crimes.”

Hackers for Hire

According to the report, some criminals will use still specially tailored software to commit e-mail abuse, spread viruses, and initiate hack attacks, but others will hire hackers to do the work for them.

Additionally, criminals will move from merely intercepting credit information to entering phony transactions and setting up shop to sell bogus goods and services.

No Decrease

The bad news is that the rise in e-crime will not be offset by a decrease in traditional crimes. The ABI report predicts “ever-increasing levels of home technology will make us all potentially more lucrative targets for thieves.”

The report went on to say that new multimedia services will be in as much demand from criminals as from other consumers. Thus, the technology used to access the multimedia services will become a target in itself.

The availability of new copying technology, and an increase in the quality of copies produced, will also lead to increased piracy and counterfeiting of valuable items, such as phone cards. Additionally, as the world becomes increasingly borderless, it will become easier for criminals to work together to counterfeit domestic and foreign currency.

Content as Commodity

As the world continues its journey into the “Information Age,” content will become an increasingly valuable commodity, leading to a rise in the illegal use of music, films, and games.

Copyright infringement cases have already made headlines in the United States, where the recording industry has taken on Napster and other companies that allow users to share digital music files.

In late July, a trial court ordered Napster to shut down until the infringement case against it was decided, but an appellate court overturned the ruling days later, allowing Napster to “play on” until the trial.

Fighting E-Crime

As e-criminals become more sophisticated, e-crime fighters have to develop their own high-tech methods to stop them. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been aggressive in cracking down on e-crime and regularly sweeps the Net looking for scams.

Just last month, the U.S. Customs Service announced that it had set up its own e-commerce site and used it to catch satellite TV pirates. The sting netted US$516,000 for the U.S. Treasury and resulted in charges being filed against six individuals.

The problem facing e-crime fighters is that while criminals can operate in the sometimes-lawless realm of cyberspace, law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions. In the United Kingdom, a proposed law that would have allowed law enforcement agents to monitor the activities of British Internet users was met with a firestorm of protest that led to the law being delayed.

A similar outcry met the revelation that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had developed an e-mail snooping technology called Carnivore. A judge recently ordered the FBI to turn over more than 3,000 pages of documents to an Internet privacy watchdog group looking into whether Carnivore violates constitutional guarantees against “unreasonable search and seizure.”

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