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Make cyber crime reporting easier, Lords told

Open source movement and Microsoft urge Lords to consider setting up single point of contact for online crime victims.

Victims of cyber crime must have an easier way to report incidents, a House of Lords committee was told.

Groups representing Microsoft and the open source community told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee that reporting online crime was "extremely difficult" and the public are confused as to how they should go about it.

"We believe it is necessary to have as easy a reporting mechanism as possible so that when people are victims of cyber crime or attempted cyber crime there is a streamlined reporting structure and ideally one body with responsibility for receiving those complaints and having appropriate resources to investigate and potentially initiate prosecutions where appropriate," said Jerry Fishenden, national technology officer for Microsoft UK.

He said that the US has a single point of reporting established by the FBI back in the late 1990s, the Internet Crime Complaints Centre, which takes some 10,000 plus complaints a year and has the authority and resources to actually look into those complaints.

"Establishing that type of scheme, as happened in the States, would also enable us to get a much better grip on the scale of the problem in the UK," he said.

He said if he walked into a police station to report a phishing attack he'd treated in the same way as if he had been a victim of pick pocketing. "Is that a model we want to move to or do we want to have cyber-crime handled at the centre?" Said Fishenden.

Alan Cox, one of the pioneers of the open source movement, said that a typical desk sergeant at a police station does not understand the problems of cyber crime and there are no other avenues to pursue.

"We need something which deals with electronic crime and computers, either an understanding in police stations or we need a central contact point," said Cox.

Fishenden said that more needed to be done to tackle the problem of spam and the security threat it posed.

"One of the things that would be clearer would be if a spammer is found guilty you can have a clear set of damages set down in the law," he said. "You have got US legislation which gives you the concept of statutory damages in this instance, so you have a per-spam fine which can be held against the spammer. That would, I think, act as a very considerable deterrent against spammers."

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