§ Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, this type of investigation is a matter for the police. Current investigations by the police do include allegations of electronic raids on medical and other research data on computer.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Are the Government nonetheless concerned about reports of recent hacking into hospital and university computers which could cause valuable material to be destroyed by deliberate delayed action? Are the Government giving any advice or warnings?
My Lords, we are concerned at allegations of computer hacking of the type to which my noble friend refers. That is one of the unpleasant aspects of these new systems of technology. The Department of Trade and Industry is helping to promote awareness and understanding of the Act through an information technology security awareness campaign directed chiefly at the needs of small and medium sized businesses.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I understand that the Department of Trade and Industry has commissioned a study by Coopers & Lybrand to investigate whether or not companies and the police have enough expertise and information to discover, combat and prosecute under the Act. The findings, I believe, are to be discussed at a conference in the autumn. Can the Minister confirm that the study will look at all aspects of computer misuse and not just at those which affect businesses? Will evidence be taken from hospitals and education establishments—precisely the places which the noble Lord who asked the Question had in mind —and will such bodies will be invited to take part in the conference on the Act when it takes place?
My Lords, the study to which the noble Lord refers has been commissioned to examine whether sufficient expert advice and information are available to meet the needs of business and the police. We shall have to wait for the consultants to carry out their study and to report their findings. I cannot tell the noble Lord whether it will involve universities or 536 medical establishments, but I have no reason to think that it will not. I cannot tell him who will be invited to the seminar when it takes place.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that a special computer crime unit exists within the police force and, if so, that it is not short of the equipment needed to detect and identify the offending hackers?
My Lords, the investigation of this type of crime is a matter for the police. As my noble friend rightly says, a computer crime unit has been set up by the Metropolitan Police. It acts as a central contact point for all police forces in the United Kingdom. I have no reason to believe that it is in any way inadequately equipped to deal with the task.