Howard Schmidt, the former cybersecurity adviser to the White House, has warned that there aren't enough trained police officers in the world to tackle cybercrime effectively.
Schmidt, now the chief security strategist at auction site eBay, told delegates at the e-Crime Congress in London on Wednesday that the issue needs to be addressed as high-tech law-breaking becomes more widespread.
"One thing that is very prevalent is that there aren't enough investigators to handle all the cases coming through," Schmidt said.
Schmidt gave the example of his son, a computer-crime policeman in Arizona, whose department has an eight-month backlog of work.
In the light of the attempted online robbery of Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Schmidt said it was easier and less risky for criminals to steal small amounts of money from a variety of people than to take a large amount from one big company.
"No one's going to rob a bank for a million dollars," he said. "Not when they can rob a million people for a dollar. If you think of the normal mindset of a criminal, if it is hard, risky and takes too much time to do something, it's better to go somewhere else."
To combat individual online theft, Schmidt advocated the use of basic security tools: antivirus, antispam and antispyware software and a firewall. He said he had received no phishing e-mails since doing this himself at home.
Schmidt urged U.K. delegates to consider a U.S.-style "neighborhood watch" campaign, saying the federal government is distributing 17,000 DVDs to law enforcement agencies for a public awareness scheme on IT security.
He added that vendors were selling technology, such as voice-over-IP services, without security functions enabled, and that this should be thought about before deployment.
Dan Ilett of ZDNet UK reported from London.