Government Lags Cybercrime Fight, Says Report

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Governments face a unique challenge when it comes to battling cybercrime, according to a recent report entitled, 'Countering cybercrime: It's Everyone's Responsibility'.

In a report released last week by Toronto-based market analysis firm International Perspectives, it outlines challenges governments face and the actions they can take to counter cybercrime.

Essentially, lack of understanding on what cybercrime really is, is one of the biggest barriers for government to counter cybercrime, according to Alicia Wanless, executive director of International Perspectives.

"I think it's difficult for the average person to get a grasp of what it is, the 'cyber' in front of it makes it seem as though it's some new type of crime," explained Wanless. "In most cases it's traditional crime that's been facilitated by ICT (information and communications technology)."

Wanless said the government has to start acting immediately on cybercrime.

"There's been a lack of adequate movement towards countering cybercrime, just even on a public awareness level - putting up Web sites isn't enough," she said.

Wanless added that catchy media campaigns would be more effective and could be used to "put it in every user's face that this is something that does affect them."

Government should also be increasing education and putting pressure on some of the higher educational institutions to change their curriculum, said Wanless.

"Canada should probably at least be trying to adopt more of the international standards and approaches that have been pushed forward," she said.

A big impediment to addressing cybercrime is the fact that it's technical, she said. "If you're a minister and only been using computers for the last 10 years, it's pretty daunting."

Another barrier, noted Wanless, is that cybercrime hasn't been as evident as other crimes, like street racing, stressing that the effects of computer crimes has not seemed "as tangible yet."

Ultimately, for people to become more engaged in countering cybercrime, it has to happen at a grass-roots level, she said.

"If individuals start accepting their own responsibility in this, and they get active and interested, then their bosses will, and then politicians will; it becomes a chain reaction," Wanless said.

The cybercrime report outlined the following key recommendations for the government:

-- Establish a separate agency to deal with cybercrime, which should go beyond a task force housed within a bigger department.

-- Create an oversight body for technical matters in security and investigations. The oversight body should consist of representatives from industry, privacy, security and law enforcement, law and academia.

-- Ensure activity that is currently not recognized as illegal under existing legislation is criminalized as soon as possible. Many types of cybercrime are enforceable under existing legislation, but those that are not need to be addressed.

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