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Source: ZDNet UK News

Posted on February xx, 2002

      Corporations victimized by cybercrime are increasingly taking the law into their own hands to track down the criminal perpetrators, a computer expert has said.

      Law enforcement experts view cybercrime -- the act of exploiting a computer network to conduct a variety of illegal activities from stealing trade secrets to committing credit card fraud -- as one of the fastest growing crimes affecting the corporate world.

      Instead of turning to resource-strapped local police, major corporations are training specialists in their own ranks to conduct internal investigations after computer network security breaches occur, said Frank Butler, a former detective for the Merseyside police in Liverpool who left the force two years ago to teach cyber-forensics classes.

      "We are finding now that a lot of corporations want to do their own private enquiries and don't want the police anywhere near them," Butler told Reuters on Wednesday.

      A big reason, he said, is that corporations often do not want word to leak out that they've become the victim of a cybercrime for fear the publicity could tarnish the firm's reputation and cost them customers.

      The financial impact of cybercrime is difficult to measure. But German foreign minister Joschka Fischer put the annual figure at =A328bn in a recent address to an international conference on the matter.

      Because of the growing, costly threat of cybercrime, firms are eager to shore up their computer networks and train staff to track down suspects, which, experts say, could be a teenage hacker, a competitor or an employee.

      More recently, corporations have been turning to the growing number of firms that offer training courses in computer forensic investigations. Companies such as California-based Guidance Software have seized on the opportunity, teaching corporations and law enforcement agents the latest tips on pulling clues from PC hard drives, personal digital assistants and eventually mobile phones that can be used to track down cybercriminals.

      Guidance has trained thousands of investigators from Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and civilian investigators from blue chip corporate clients, Butler said.

      On Wednesday, Guidance announced it was opening its first European training facility in Liverpool to address the growing market demand in Europe. Butler, the European training manager for Guidance, said that Guidance classes today consist of equal numbers of law enforcement officers and corporate clients. Two years ago, one trainee in five was from the corporate world, he said.

      A big area of concern for corporate clients, he said, is the threat of data espionage and data theft, which result from intrusions into a firm's computer network. He said the suspects are often employees.

      For law enforcement officers, the use of computers to conduct or plan all manner of violent crimes from fraud to assaults are on the rise, experts said.

      In the West Midlands, more than 500 cases have been handled where computer evidence was a factor in the last few months, said the region's high tech crime unit.

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