The Metropolitan Police is looking to expand its computer crime unit into a national resource, amid admissions that local e-crime units are no longer able to cope with a rising tide of organised computer crime.
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A report published by the Metropolitan Police last week said that local police computer crime units are struggling to keep up with a growing volume of attacks.
It concluded that local specialist e-crime units "can no longer cope with all e-crime".
Businesses have complained that the merger of the National High-Tech Crime Unit last year into a new Serious Organised Crime Agency has left a serious gap in policing, at a time when computer crime is reaching epidemic proportions.
The report suggested that the Met could fill the gap by bringing its own specialist computer crime units together into a single operation to create a new national computer crime fighting resource.
But the report's author, detective chief inspector Charlie McMurdie, warned that computer crime is rising at such a rate that it will not be possible for police to investigate every complaint.
"The fact remains that due to the volume of offences and the national and international nature of e-crime, sometimes involving hundreds or thousands of victims, the police service cannot undertake to investigate all the allegations as a matter of course," she said.
Demands for computer forensic services, which cost the Met £4.3m last year, are forecast to increase by 30% to 40% in 2007.
The report called for computer crime to be "mainstreamed" so that it becomes a routine part of policing, rather than an activity of specialists.
A national strategy under development by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) calls for police to focus on crime prevention and intelligence gathering. This will free up police resources to tackle organised criminal networks and individuals that represent a high threat.
"The objective is to reduce the opportunities for criminals to exploit technology and to take action to 'target-harden' identified vulnerabilities," the report said.
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Sue Wilkinson, Acpo lead on e-crime, said that the focus of the police would increasingly move towards working with business to prevent attacks.
"Proactive prevention is really a viable way forward. If you understand what the emerging problem is, you then work with the bank or the industry or public awareness about what the problem is and how to prevent it happening to them," she said.
Related article: Changing of the e-crime guard