Senior Labour MPs Chi Onwurah, Keith Vaz and Stella Creasy joined security consultant Dr Michael Westmacott representing BCS, to discuss the growing threat of cybercrime at a Labour conference fringe event.
“Cybercrime is one of the biggest challenges that this country faces” Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Chi Onwurah stated in the fringe hosted by BCS Chartered Institute of IT. Tackling it would not be easy, she continued, not least because the UK did not yet have the skills to do so.
A major issue is that “we don’t actually know what cybercrime costs the UK” she explained. This is problematic because a case against cybercrime has to be built on a solid evidence base.
Onwurah explained that the funding going towards tackling cybercrime actually represents a very small proportion of the UK’s cyber security budget. The biggest gap in cyber security is currently for mobiles, she added, noting how the Government’s strategy on the topic does not mention mobiles at all.
This Government really just doesn’t get it” Onwurah said, accusing Michael Gove of being “far more interested in teaching Latin than Java.”
Shadow Crime Prevention Minister Stella Creasy said she was primarily concerned with the current situation of having five separate government departments with cybercrime in their remit in a minor way.
More clarity is needed over who is accountable and responsible for dealing with the issue, she believed.
Creasy reiterated how little funding was given to the police for tackling cybercrime, adding that aside from the fact that there is no crime of identity theft, there are also no incentives for such crimes to be reported.
She particularly highlighted the issue of cyber harassment, having suffered this herself. There is currently no protocol for how to deal with issues like this, she said:
“We cannot design out risk, but we can be more aware of it.”
Home Affairs Committee Chairman, Keith Vaz, explained that cybercrime is regarded as the number one threat of the 21st century.
Advances in technology had been so swift over recent years that regulation and policing had been unable to keep up or catch up, he said. Attention must be paid to it though, he continued, as the UK is the top target for cybercrime threats in 25 countries.
Vaz called for a “pause”, to think properly about the issue and find proper solutions.
He did not believe the financial sector have any real interest in solving crimes; instead they are simply keen to reimburse customers whose money is stolen.
The committee chairman stressed how trying to tackle the issue inside one country is futile, as cybercrime spans borders:
“Britain cannot do this on its own. It has absolutely got to be done by sharing with other countries.”
Vaz described one of the recommendations that his committee had made after conducting an inquiry into cybercrime; a state of the art cybercrime response centre. He said such a centre could ensure all cybercrimes were treated in one set way, and create the kind of standard protocol that Creasy was looking for.
Dr Michael Westmacott, Security Consultant at IRM and Chair at BCS Young Professionals Information Security Group, explained that a major cause of cybercrime is that new technologies are being created so quickly that consumers do not have time to become well-versed in the capabilities of new products.
“We need to be able to teach technology in a different way to consumers” he argued, as well as teach them some of the underlying issues around technology, including subjects like online privacy. He pointed to research produced by the BCS Aspects of Identity on the governance of identity assurance on the internet.
Westmacott picked up Vaz’s point about how banks were keener to refund their customers than prevent cyber attacks, saying that a situation had been created whereby “cybercrime becomes something that can be insured against.”
A better understanding of different types of cybercrime is needed, he said, as well as the difference between both civil and criminal cybercrime.