Give Soca clout to tackle e-crime

Opinion

Give Soca clout to tackle e-crime

Unveiling the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) on 1 April may not have given the latest addition to the UK's army of crimebusters the most auspicious of starts. It has certainly left the agency open to obvious quips about the timing of its launch.

Such apparent thoughtlessness on the part of government may also point to a lack of attention to the role and responsibilities of Soca. And this may have deleterious consequences for the businesses that are at risk from computer-related crimes.

The agency is, in essence, the UK's answer to the FBI. It is an amalgam of several crime-fighting agencies, such as the National Crime Squad and the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU). It boasts an annual budget of £416m and employs more than 4,000 staff. Soca's remit is to fight all forms of organised crime, from fraud to computer crime. But it will focus on hard drugs and illegal immigration.

In principle, this is all fine. Government wants to check the proliferation of "big ticket" crimes through a super agency unfettered by other responsibilities. So it creates one to do just that. 

The practical output of such laudable, big-picture planning is somewhat different. The failure to pay attention to the fine detail has provoked justified anxiety among UK companies. They fear IT-related threats to their businesses may be downgraded in importance as Soca prioritises citizen-facing crimes. 

The business community's concerns were borne out this week by advice on the NHTCU's website that urged visitors to report computer crimes to their local police forces.

The government has in one swift move with the creation of Soca removed an organisation with a clear remit to tackle corporate computer-crime and replaced it with a patchwork of local police forces.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with that. In reality, local police forces' ability to respond to high-tech crime is, at best, patchy, with some forces boasting well-equipped computer crime units and many others struggling.

Indeed, for most forces, beset with budgetary constraints and the need to grapple with daily street crime, the complex world of corporate e-crime will understandably be of secondary importance.

This is a tricky situation. There is a serious and genuine risk that corporate computer crimes may be left under-resourced and poorly policed, unless government acts decisively to address this issue. Failure to do so is unacceptable.   

If Soca is the government's best answer to organised crime, it must be given the budget, the authority and the responsibility to fight all forms of corporate computer crime.

Read article: Firms fear lack of e-crime action after police merger

 

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This was first published in April 2006

 

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