Cleaning up the 'Net - An Action Plan to combat the use and abuse of the internet for financial crime
The plumbing system allows the delivery of water to terminal points: taps, showers and toilets.
The internet allows the delivery of instructions and information to terminal points - computers.
Activity that appears to happen "on the internet" actually happens on those computers.
Computers do nothing unless they are instructed to do something. Like a tap doesn't turn itself on, a computer does nothing without instructions from a human.
For too long we have talked about regulating "the internet."
The internet is the wrong target. To combat crime committed using the medium of the internet, we must regulate the people.
We know from wider criminal behaviour that a significant amount of crime is committed for profit.
Criminals who commit e.g. fraud over the internet cannot do so in isolation. The internet is not a thing but it is an eco-system. And around those criminals there are a host of seemingly honest businesses all willing to take a share of the criminals' profits in return for providing a range of services.
Cleaning up the internet identifies them and shows how they can be recruited in the battle against crime, some of which is committed on-line.
The internet is part of the fabric of society and with demonstrable capacity to be misused by a wide range of criminals from fraudsters and extortionists, to those who hack devices to change their behaviour and as a tool in the armoury of terrorists. A root and branch review and a fundamental change of ethos is the only way to protect society at large from the actions of an increasing number of people who commit crime for profit, for ideological reasons or just because they can. And we also need to look at who profits from the use of the internet by those criminals. We have make them accountable for their business practices, as we have done across the financial sector.
In 1999, I published a paper called "The Use and Abuse of The Internet in Fraud and Money Laundering."* It received wide acceptance among the academic community and government departments but, as it appeared only in an academic journal, was not widely read in the financial sector. Recently, a number of the issues I raised have come back to the fore. As I considered them afresh, I realised that I had done much of the work before. 15 years before.
Cleaning Up the 'Net" started as a problem for which I needed a solution, became a pitch for an article and then turned into a book. The book became an action plan for a global strategy which can be implemented only by co-operation between governments.
We know that the internet provides, simply because of its scale, ideal opportunities for criminals to use social networks such as Facebook, twitter and Google+, free and anonymous e-mail accounts such as Yahoo! and even mobile messaging like Blackberry Messaging (BBM) and WhatsApp as command and control networks as well as recruiting tools and for the dissemination of propaganda.
The internet is a place full of dark and dangerous places. Attempts at regulating the internet have focussed on limited applications, nibbling around the edges. Nigel Morris-Cotterill says this is not the correct solution. The correct solutions will revolutionise the internet, will make access more difficult and more expensive and will reduce the number of players. It will make those remaining players more responsible. It will take courage and political will and a global initiative. If that sounds improbable, it's been done before. The mistakes of the previous application can be avoided and the 'net can be cleaned up very quickly and at little or no cost to governments.
There will be pressure groups, special interest groups and commercial enterprises who complain, who say that this will have an unnecessarily restrictive impact on "rights."
You choose: regulation or anarchy, safety or harm?
We've done it before. Are we brave enough to require our governments to do it again?
Keywords: anonymising services, Cloud, enforcement, fraud, intellectual property, internet, IP, ISP, liability, money laundering, Search Engine, theft
© 2015 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
All rights reserved