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Identity Fraud

Now in the top five dangers facing global security and well being, is not wars, civil unrest and uprisings, but cyber-crime. That joins economic collapse, energy deprivation, food/water drought and natural disasters as the things people perceive that most threaten our world.

Many British companies are among world leaders in developing systems and solutions to defeat cyber, online crime as technology grows in complexity and ability to do more. The problem plus security breaches already cost the British economy £27 billion a year, which is set to rise exponentially.

The Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA) has been set up to ‘give the UK the balance of advantage in cyberspace’. That’s a tall order, but necessary. The USA has its own version and other countries are following suit.

It recently estimated that damage to business can cost up to 80% of costs, while intellectual property theft loses business almost £10 billion a year, and industrial espionage around another £8 billion annually. The cost to individuals of identity theft is incalculable.

Big Business. It has become a very big well-organised global business. It ranges from what the OCSIA calls ‘hobby hackers’ at one end of the scale to criminal groups organised on industrial levels, via cyber terrorists who proliferate in some places, but could be in even more.

A team may operate in the UK, sending hacked personal and bank details to another group overseas who offer it for sale online swiftly. Another team elsewhere buys the data, creates false cards and documents which are sold to yet another outfit. Frauds and deceptions occur within minutes.

This crime works on collaborative planning and operating. Sam Keayes, head of Thales UK’s national security and resilience business (writing in Sunday Telegraph supplement, 4 September 2011), believes ‘the best approach to counter the threat is with security technology that mirrors the criminals’.

This concept of working together needs to include police, defence, industry, academic fields as well. Keayes argues for greater co-operation and partnership between respected enterprise security providers and the security small/medium business community. Imitating hackers and fraudsters can at least help business keep up with them, if not actually get ahead.

Some have also called for repenting and/or jailed cyber-criminals to trade prison time for time building safer networks and systems for law-abiding business and citizens. Long ago police started learning from car thieves and hijackers; why not the same with computers and gizmos?

Instead of jailing a teenager who has hacked into something sensitive, special and ‘safe’, why don’t we learn from him (almost always male) and use his gifts to help us all?