After successes with Virus expert Richard Smith participation, such as those related to the Melissa virus, in combating cyber crime, Interpol is considering letting a Silicon Valley security company help it protect businesses from malicious hackers, The Associated Press reported on Friday.
If the partnership is reached, it would be the first time the international police agency has paired with a private company to fight Net crime, Interpol secretary general Raymond Kendall told AP.
The company, Atomic Tangerine of Menlo Park, Calif., has approached Kendall with an idea to create an "early warning system" that would help private sector businesses protect themselves from cyber attacks, he said.
In turn, information gathered by private companies could be made available to Interpol, says Atomic Tangerine, a consultancy that spun off from SRI International, formerly the Stanford Research Institute.
Kendall said he was willing to consider Atomic Tangerine's offer because cyber crime is largely uncharted territory for most law officers -- and governments have found it difficult to coordinate cross-border efforts to combat this new phenomenon.
"In police terms, usually when you come across a new type of crime, the general reaction is to create a special group," Kendall said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Lyon, where Interpol is based. "But there's a limit to how you can transform police officers or detectives into technicians."
Interpol currently has about a half-dozen investigators devoted to Internet crime.
"It's my personal opinion that everything that's done in this area develops very quickly," Kendall said in explaining the reasoning behind a possible partnership with Atomic Tangerine. "So the response has to be very quick."
Cyber criminals do leave the digital equivalent of fingerprints, but investigators need to move quickly to encounter them.
"Governments are no longer in a position to be all things to all people," Kendall said. "The response of the private sector will be fast because they have an incentive to be fast."
Law enforcement agencies, including the US Justice Department, currently lack the staff to investigate and prosecute most cyber crimes -- from break-ins to data destruction and theft to damaging viruses.
As a result, cyber criminals are breaking into or paralyzing Web sites with little fear of retribution, costing the private sector hundreds of millions of dollars.
Atomic Tangerine said in a statement last week that any information it would make available in a possible partnership with Interpol would be offered to legitimate users for free and would not intrude on individual privacy.
Kendall said Interpol hoped to decide by mid-October on whether to accept the company's proposal. He said the agency needed to explore its legal and technical implications.
Simon Graveling, Atomic Tangerine's European marketing director, said Wednesday that some news media last week misinterpreted a statement, giving the impression that an agreement already had been reached with Interpol.
Atomic Tangerine approached Interpol with the idea after Kendall spoke by satellite link to an Internet defense summit that it co-hosted in Silicon Valley in May.
An Atomic Tangerine spokesman said that because the company is linked to SRI, one of the world's leading research labs, it has access to an immense database containing decades of highly sought-out Net information and is thus a natural partner for Interpol.
Graveling said the partnership, if agreed upon, would likely expand.
"I think more private companies will be invited into this relationship as it opens and becomes more of a working structure," he said.
Interpol, known formally as the International Criminal Police Organization, was founded in 1923 to track fugitives and investigate international crime -- (Several Sources)
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