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[ISN] Crime reporting website raises security fears
From: InfoSec News (isnC4I.ORG)
Date: Mon Jan 15 2001 - 01:15:34 CST
By Lisa Kelly
January 12, 2001
Plans to let the public report crimes via a national police website
have raised fears that citizens will be vulnerable to revenge attacks
if computer security fails.
Home Office minister Charles Clarke told the House of Commons this
week that he had commissioned work on the development of an internet
portal which would enable members of the public to report minor crimes
to the police using the internet.
Clarke said the portal was part of a wider vision for delivering
police services electronically to the public. "While many forces are
already introducing services via their own websites, I believe the
public should be able to interact with their local force through a
standard interface providing a wide range of services," he said.
The plan started alarm bells ringing among security experts. Simon
Davies, director of Privacy International, urged the Home Office to
withdraw the proposal. "With the internet too much information is
readily transferable. The wrong people could get hold of it and there
would be a list of informers. It would be a severe risk to the
Neil Barrett, technical consultant at security firm Information Risk
Management, said: "If it is not secure, in theory you could get a
visit and a thumping. The Guardia Seville in Spain is setting up a
similar system to catch terrorists. In cases like that it is essential
the reporting remains anonymous."
Paul Rogers, a network security analyst at MIS, said: "It will be down
to public confidence if it is successful. It's a good idea in
principle but it will depend on how secure it is. Public confidence in
online security has dropped through the floor."
Clarke's statement was made in response to a question from Edward
Davey, Liberal Democrat MP, Kingston and Surbiton, who is pushing for
the internet to be used more widely by police forces.
He told vnunet.com: "I have been trying to get the police out of the
dark ages and do things with the internet. A portal would enable the
public to share all sorts of information with the local police."
Davey said that a number of issues would have to be taken into account
with such a development: "People should not see it as a way of
reporting a 999 issue. There is also the question of allowing people
to report crimes anonymously or on the record, and the issue of
security, and we don't want coppers reading emails all day."
Privacy expert Simon Davies added: "This portal should not be set up
without some sort of public discussion. Any government which enthuses
its population to report on a neighbour should be treated with
suspicion. Safeguards must be well thought out. The Home Office has no
concept of privacy or human rights. The Home Office wants everyone to
become agents of the state."
Davies said that any system coming from the Home Office will "be full
of security flaws and privacy blackspots. The Home Office is not
competent to set up this sort of system. [The Home Office] screws up
technology and, more importantly, it has the wrong attitude."
He urged the Home Office "to withdraw the proposal. Information from
telephone hotlines can be assessed with little danger to the public."
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