Tag Archives: Cyber crime

Online retail crime needs to be addressed

Over the last six months it has rained so much that even a mere glimpse of blue skies or the feeling of sunshine upon our skin has left us elated but nervous. It’s as if we’ve forgotten what that used to feel like, so grey and wet has this year been.

While it may have dampened – literally – our domestic holiday plans, our want to sort the garden shed out, to dine alfresco or spend time watching the world go by in the great outdoors, thankfully, other aspects of our daily lives, have pretty much continued as normal. The digital age has brought everything to our fingertips.

We might have desired to go to the cinema, but streaming videos lets us link up our PCs to our gigantic TVs; a gig might have been called off, but with YouTube, we can watch the band’s music videos; and where we’ve needed to fill up our fridge and not wanted to get blasted with torrential rain, well, with a few clicks, we’ve navigated a virtual supermarket without stepping out of the door.

Everything is possible with the digital life, but while it comes with benefits, there are always downsides. A new report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has found that cyber crime, or e-crime as it describes it, represents one of the biggest challenges facing retailers in the 21st century.

In 2011-12 for example, British retailers were hit hard, with breaches to network security costing, in total, £205.4 million. Of this figure, £77.3 million was lost as a direct consequence of fraudulent activity, while the remainder was calculated as projections of business lost as a result of being a victim.

The most popular type of crime was personal identity fraud, followed by card fraud in general, after which came refund fraud. Though this was the bulk of criminal activity, it was by no means exclusive, with phishing also proving to be a growing problem for retailers.

While this in itself is problematic, it doesn’t help that retailers are not approaching such crimes in the same way as they would for non-digital crimes. The study noted that 60 per cent of businesses in this industry were unlikely to report any more than ten per cent of crimes to the authorities.

This indicates that somewhere, along the usual lines of communication, something has gone amiss. Considering that the UK is a leader in online retailing, such losses are harmful to finances and reputation.

“Online retailing has the potential for huge future commercial expansion but government and police need to take e-crime more seriously if the sector is to maximise its contribution to national economic growth,” advised Stephen Robertson, director of the BRC.

“Retailers are investing significantly to protect customers and reduce the costs of e-crime but law makers and enforcers need to show a similarly strong commitment.”

According to the expert, the study shows where efforts need to be directed. Mr Robertson said that the government, along with law enforcement agencies, need to work to develop a “consistent, centralised method for reporting and investigating e-crime”.

We welcome this. If there is, as the BRC calls for, a better, more organised system for getting businesses to consistently report, record and investigate crime, backed up with more support from the authorities, we can get a better, more detailed picture of trends in cyber crime. Knowing this allows us to build up better security measures.

After all, the last thing we want on a rainy day, cooped up in the home, is to lack the confidence to shop online for clothes, food or treats. Technology is about moving forward, it’s about high time retailers stepped up.


Metropolitan Police setting standards in the fight against cyber crime

For now, let us reflect on the good times.

The Metropolitan Police revealed at the start of the month that its Central e-Crime Unit saved the UK economy an astonishing £140 million in just the last six months alone.

With cyber crime costing the country a gargantuan £27 billion a year, its efforts –IT security professionals working in information risk management would agree – are to be applauded.

The ACPO National e-Crime Programme (NeCP), which received a hefty funding boost at the start of the year after the government realised that cyber security is increasingly pushing its way to the top of the list of threats to the UK’s safety and intelligence, is looking to be a frightening force.

That funding by the way, which came to a total of £30 million, has been money well spent. The NeCP is building a sophisticated, tech-savvy and committed team that signals a positive step forward in security. They aim to set standards of pre-eminence and then outperform themselves.

The positive thing is that it is focusing on some of the biggest threats to security going, like distribution of malicious code – aka malware – denial of service (DDoS) attacks and unwarranted computer intrusion.

Detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie, from the Police Central e-Crime Unit said: “The PCeU continues to take action in its continuing efforts to reduce the harm caused to the UK economy and to UK citizens by those making use of the internet to commit crime.”

Security breaches online for example, where many people are choosing to organise their professional lives, their personal lives, the conduit from which they interact and network with one another, statically or remotely, where personal details are passed over the internet highway, is on the rise and will be as prevalent as so-called “regular” crime.

That the government has recognised this and invested in it as well is a positive and proactive move, backed up by the machinery that is putting in place the mechanisms needed to combat rising levels of crime against individuals, businesses and the government itself.

If the Metropolitan Police’s recent successes is anything to go by, then cyber criminals, lurking behind encryptions and clever algorithms, “state-sponsored” criminals to organised crime gangs down to “spotty teenagers sitting in their bedrooms” as Detica’s Martin Sutherland so eloquently put it, are facing a new era of clampdowns.