LONDON (Reuters) - The fight against cyber crime needs a stronger common international legal framework to enable perpetrators outside the country of their victims to be tracked down and punished, a British security official said on Tuesday.
James Brokenshire, a Home Office (Interior Ministry) Minister for Crime and Security, added in remarks to reporters that governments and companies had to work much more closely together to fight the "scammers, fraudsters and hackers" who were creating a truly global problem.
"Active international partnerships are central to tackling cyber crime," he said. "There needs to be an international response including international treaties, bilateral treaties and common agreements between countries."
A priority for governments is to find ways of hunting criminals across borders and ensuring they are punished, but many nations lack a common definition of cyber crime or common legal standards that would enable prosecutions of criminals operating offshore.
Security experts have long said the core problem has been that nations are thinking too parochially about their online security to collaborate on crafting global cyber regulation.
High-profile online assaults in recent weeks have targeted the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Senate, and companies such as Citigroup and Lockheed Martin Corp.
The raids have raised doubts about the security of government and corporate computer systems and the ability of law enforcement to track down hackers.
Saying there should be "no safe haven" for online criminals, Brokenshire added that governments had to work with the private sector to provide technical expertise to police in those countries that lacked the resources to fight cyber criminals.
He was speaking at the launch of the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA), a global not-for-profit organization that aims to channel funding, expertise and help directly to law enforcement cyber crime units around the world.
The venture, which will seek funding from the European Union, governments of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, and private sector companies, plans to work in partnership with European police agency EUROPOL.
Rik Ferguson, Director of Security Research at Trend Micro said areas of concern to ICSPA included Brazil, which had expertise in banking malware, China, where computers were often used by criminals elsewhere to host attacks in third countries, and Russia and Ukraine.
Companies supporting the venture include McAfee, Cassidian, Trend Micro, Yodel, Core Security Technologies, Visa Europe, Shop Direct group, A&REdelman, Transactis and Article10.
Cyber crime costs the British economy some 27 billion pounds ($43.5 billion) a year and appears to be "endemic," according to the first official government estimate of the issue published in February 2011.
Brokenshire's call echoes remarks by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who said last week that cyber criminals were outwitting national and international legal systems that fail to embrace technological advances.
(Reporting by William Maclean)