http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,474802,00.html Alan Travis, home affairs editor Thursday April 19, 2001 The Guardian At least four large internet banks in Britain have been attacked by computer hackers, it emerged yesterday at the launch of a national police unit to tackle cybercrime. It is believed that in each case at least hundreds of thousands of pounds was stolen, but the banks concerned have been reluctant to report the thefts for fear it will damage the credibility of banking online. Police officers involved in operations aimed at breaking up organised crime say that they have tracked several hackers who have made successful attacks on the internet banks - despite the banks' denials. Bill Hughes, the director general of the national crime squad, explained the reticence to report attacks: "When businesses say they are not being 'hacked' they are not telling the truth. "Everyone has been attacked. It is how businesses deal with it that is the question. As soon as they realise it is not bad for business, and we can do something about it, they will acknowledge it." Tracking down the cyber robbers who forge credit card details and other electronic identities to break into internet banks is just one of the tasks of the specialist police unit. To begin with the unit has 40 officers housed in a "semi-covert location" in central London. The unit will eventually have a further 40 officers in regional forces when it is fully operational in two to three years. At its launch yesterday, the home secretary, Jack Straw, said 25m over three years was to be spent on countering cybercrime. "Technology is already changing the way criminals operate," said Mr Straw. "They look for the highest return with the least risk, and in an age where society and business are reaping the rewards and benefits of new technology, there is a massive opportunity for organised crime to exploit those new technologies. "Looking to the future the equation is simple - money is going electronic; and where the money goes, so will organised crime." The unit's launch was at the Science Museum, in London, to coincide with an exhibition there on cybercrime. The exhibition features a Welsh teenager accused of downloading 20,000 credit card numbers from the net, and the hijack of the Nike.com website by anti-corporate protesters. The unit's head, Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, said yesterday that a growing illicit subculture existed, intent on fraud, extortion, money laundering, paedophilia and race hate, as well as newer crimes such as hacking. The unit will have investigative officers, forensic experts, computer consultants and support staff to investigate serious and organised crime. Mr Hynds claimed that it would prove a milestone in policing. Officers would neither spend their time in patrolling the internet nor in reading emails, he said: "There is no intention for us to randomly intercept and read people's emails. We lack the inclination, the capability or the legal power to do so." Email interception requires a warrant that has been personally signed by the home secretary. However, Mr Straw confirmed that internet service providers would be expected to keep what were termed "communication details" of their customers' accounts so that the police could track their email recipients and the sites they have visited. John Wadham, director of Liberty, the civil rights organisation, said: "We welcome the creation of the unit, but we think at the same time they should introduce strong safeguards to ensure people's privacy on the internet is protected - unless there is a strong suspicion that they are involved in crime." Hacking The police identify three types of hackers. Recreational hackers do little more than gain unauthorised access. The criminal minded range from those who make unauthorised money transfers, to vandals who sabotage websites. The third are political "hactivists" such as those who placed anti-nuclear messages on hundreds of websites. Viruses and other malicious programmes 200 new viruses are identified each month. Software piracy The illegal copying and resale of software programmes including music and video. Fraud Includes credit card fraud and scams given a new lease of life on the net, such as pyramid schemes. Harassment, threats and hate sites This includes "cyber-stalking", blackmail by email, and issuing hit lists such as that in the US naming 200 abortion doctors and pro-choice judges and politicians. ISN is hosted by SecurityFocus.com --- To unsubscribe email LISTSERVat_private with a message body of "SIGNOFF ISN".
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