MENLO PARK, CALIF. (05/09/2000) - Governments and law enforcement agencies don't have the money or the know-how to fight computer criminals, and the private sector has a big role to play in the battle against hackers and cyberterrorists, the head of Interpol, the international police organization, said Tuesday.
"Although the governments have a responsibility, of course, to create the legal conditions in which people like me and my colleagues can work, they also are limited in resources," Raymond Kendall, Interpol's secretary general, said in a speech here yesterday morning at the Internet Defense Summit.
The summit gathered together more than 100 top officials, mostly from the private sector but also from government and law enforcement, to brainstorm about ways to fight cybercrime. Kendall spoke via a satellite link from Brussels.
"We can't afford to engage the kind of technology, the technicians, (or) the research resources which are necessary to come to quick and rapid solutions to deal with what is a relatively new phenomenon," Kendall said.
Adding to the problem is that laws governing computer crimes are spotty at best in many parts of the world. In some countries, laws may not even exist under which authorities could prosecute the computer hacker responsible for the I Love You Virus, which has been trouncing computer networks the world over, he said.
"It takes a long time to get legislation adopted nationally," Kendall continued. "It takes an even longer time to get international conventions adopted which can help deal with these problems and be used as a legal basis," he said.
The Interpol chief had some harsh words for computer hackers.
"Hackers, and particularly young hackers, must be seen for what they are: They are criminals, they are committing criminal offenses which have consequences throughout the world," Kendall said. "They should be seen as that, not just as clever young people trying to prove that they can do something which nobody else can do."
Cyberterrorists also pose a growing threat to security and public safety, he said. Computer crimes enacted at the state level can be more effective for terrorists and more costly to victims than the "classic methods of bomb attacks and assassination," the Interpol chief said.
"It is really a serious threat to all of us and all of our societies," he said.
Kendall called on the private sector to flex its research and development budgets and come up with ways to protect networks against computer crimes.
Moreover, he said, corporations need to make investments for the future by installing effective security equipment on their networks today.
"Prepare for the worst, with the necessary contingency programs in place to see that damage is limited," he said.
Corporations also must be more open and share information about computer attacks with the police, he said.
"One of the difficulties we're having is that we don't really know the true extent of the problem, because of the reluctance of some people, for all sorts of reasons, to want to report (incidents)," Kendall said.
Companies are often reluctant to report that they are the victims of hacker attacks because they fear a public relations backlash, or because they fear legal ramifications from customers, participants at the Internet summit here said.
"And remember," Kendall concluded, "there is no such thing as absolute security. You have to prepare, and we have to be ready together to tackle this problem."