April 25, 2006 1:20 PM PDT

Mafia insiders infiltrating firms, U.K. cops warn

Employees are still one of the greatest threats to corporate security, as "new-age" mafia gangs infiltrate companies, the U.K.'s crime-fighting agency has said.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Infosecurity 2006 conference in London, Tony Neate, e-crime liaison for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), said insider "plants" are causing significant damage to companies.

"We have fraud and ID theft, but one of the big threats still comes from the trusted insiders. That is, people inside the company who are attacking the systems," he said.

"(Organized crime) has changed. You still have traditional organized crime, but now they have learned to compromise employees and contractors. (They are) new-age, maybe have computer degrees and are enterprising themselves. They have a wide circle of associates and new structures," he added.

Neate's comments are some of the first from SOCA, which so far has tended to shy away from press attention.

The British agency was formed earlier this month, and combines the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and experts from HM Revenue & Customs and the U.K. Immigration Service.

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, which previously dealt with Internet crime in the U.K., has also been rolled into SOCA.

The agency is chaired by Stephen Lander, a former director general of British internal counterintelligence agency MI5, and will have a budget of more than 400 million pounds ($706.3 million) and around 4,200 staff.

According to SOCA's annual plan, around 40 percent of its efforts will be directed toward combating drug trafficking; 25 percent toward organized immigration crime; and 10 percent toward individual and private sector fraud, including identity fraud and electronic fraud from Internet banking and e-commerce.

Dan Ilett of Silicon.com reported from London.

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