Cyber Crime

Home Department written question – answered on 17th November 2004.

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Photo of Mr David Stewart Mr David Stewart PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government are taking to combat (a) cyber crime and (b) cyber terrorism, with particular reference to (i) credit card fraud and (ii) identity theft.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

The Government takes very seriously the issue of cyber attack. It has in place a number of organisations to ensure that the electronic fabric of society is not under attack. Advice, from a variety of sources, is also available to the general public and computer users. There is a fine line between criminal acts against information systems (so called "e-crime") and what could be called a terrorist act. The damage or disruption to an electrical system can be the same irrespective of whether an attack is caused for "criminal" or "terrorist" reasons. Whatever the reason for an attack, action will be taken wherever possible against those responsible.

Despite the investigative challenges posed by the internet, law enforcement seeks to take effective action against fraud whatever mechanism is used to commit it. Where cases involve serious and organised computer enabled criminality at national and international levels the case may be dealt with by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) which we have set up within the National Crime Squad.

The internet provides criminals with new opportunities to commit a range of financial frauds including credit card fraud and identity fraud. Credit card fraud takes various forms including phishing (the practice of sending e-mails claiming to originate from banks which ask customers to re-register at a replica bank website with the aim of using that information to transfer money out of these accounts), and card not present (CNP) fraud where genuine card details are stolen and used to make purchases through a remote medium such as the internet. Identity fraud usually occurs when someone's personal information such as name, address or date of birth is captured without their knowledge and used by someone else to support criminal activity, which could involve deception, financial gain or obtaining other benefits and services.

The Home Office has established a cross public-private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud. The programme co-ordinates existing activity in the public and private sectors and identifies new projects and initiatives to reduce identity fraud. On 14 July 2004 my hon. Friend Des Browne announced a website www.identitytheft.org.uk, which offers advice to consumers on how to protect themselves against identity theft and what to do if they think they have been victims of identity fraud.

Education is a key factor in dealing with fraud over the internet. A large amount of internet fraud can be prevented if organisations have proper fraud prevention measures in place. The public must also be educated about the dangers of internet fraud and how to avoid falling victim to it.

Government takes an active role in educating computer users about the risks of fraud committed by using the internet and the Home Office website provides advice on avoiding internet fraud. The Home Office has also created, and maintains the "e-tailing mini site", which forms part of the crime reduction website. The mini site provides information to help both businesses and consumers protect themselves specifically when using the internet.

We have published, jointly with the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) a leaflet on card safety which includes a section on using cards safely over the internet. The leaflet has been sent to all police forces in England and Wales, and to Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. It is also available on the Home Office website and the e-tailing mini site, and APACS members (banks) will be sending a version of the leaflet to their cardholders.

The Home Office is represented on an industry-led Steering Group which aims to tackle CNP fraud. We support practical measures being introduced by the industry to increase levels of security for internet transactions: These include Address Verification Services (AVS) and Card Security Code (CSC), along with Mastercard Secure Code and Verified by Visa which require password verification for internet transactions. These initiatives are already making a significant impact on CNP Fraud. The work of the CNP Steering Group has also led to the production of a manual (Spot and Stop Card Fraud Retailer Pack) which aims to educate merchants on the dangers of CNP fraud and the steps which can be taken to prevent it.

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