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UK police cyber operations gear up ahead of new funding

Warwick Ashford

The Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) is expanding operations in anticipation of new funding over the next four years from 1 April.

After providing £650m to boost UK cyber defences in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the government has allocated £30m to regional e-crime units.

The PCeU has been doing a lot of work around the SDSR funding as one of the partners in the programme of work on UK cyber security, said Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU.

"As soon as we knew we were going to receive increased funding, we started working on business cases, proposed programmes of work, and recruitment," she told Computer Weekly.

New members of the unit are ready to get to work as soon as the funding is available, with the number of staff set to more than double in the coming years to as many as 90.

Operational boost

The bulk of the new investment and recruitment will be aimed at the operational side of the unit, which includes hand-on investigations, international operations, and working with industry and other partners to build a virtual taskforce.

"We also have some money that has been earmarked for the unit's other function of increasing the cyber capabilities of mainstream UK law enforcement," she said.

This includes regional cyber forensic and crime investigating capabilities, improving process tools, skill sets and co-ordinated training standards, and training of high-end investigators.

However, it is not as simple as having £30m to do whatever the PCeU likes, said McMurdie. "It is an incremental funding programme over the four years, based on delivery and performance."

McMurdie describes the budget allocation within the PCeU as a "work in progress" to identify exactly what is going to be done, how it is to be done, and how much resource it will require.

"We have to make sure that what we are doing supports and co-ordinates with all the agencies under the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA)," she said.

DDoS attacks success

McMurdie said she has always been confident of the PCeU's success, and that its success would attract more funding to enable the unit to expand and grow its operations.

In one of its most recent successes, members of the PCeU arrested five men in connection with the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on firms that withdrew support for Wikileaks after its controversial release of classified US diplomatic cables.

The arrests were carried out in January at addresses in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London.

The arrests were part of an ongoing investigation into DDoS attacks by the anonymous hacker group being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US.


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