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Think tank reports lifts lid on police cyber crime training

UK think tank Parliament Street has lifted the lid on spending by police forces on training staff to deal with cyber crime and recommended greater collaboration in this regard

UK police forces have spent a total of £1,320,341 on cyber crime training courses in the past three years, according to a report from the Parliament Street think tank.

The Policing and Cybercrime policy paper, which is based on freedom of information (FoI) requests sent to all police forces in the UK, also reveals that a total of 39,483 police staff and officers underwent training across the UK in that period.

North Wales Police topped the list with £375,488 on cyber crime training for officers and staff between 2015 and 2017. This included a dedicated five-day mainstream cyber training course for 147 key staff, costing £160,000.

There was also a one-day cyber crime input course for all new Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) recruits for 183 officers which cost £29,900. An additional £52,300 was spent on a similar course for 68 criminal investigation department (CID) officers.

West Mercia and Warwickshire Police spent £125,633 on cyber crime training, followed by Lincolnshire which stated it had spent £119,834. This was followed by West Midlands Police on £91,200 and Police Scotland on £83,121.

On the lower end of the scale, Norfolk and Suffolk police forces reported a combined spend of £71,100. This included sending 3,882 staff on a cyber crime and digital policing first responder course, while 147 staff members were sent on a digital media investigator course costing £6,500. Some £15,000 was also spent on an open source level 2 course for 87 members of staff.

The report said while the majority of UK police forces responded to the FoI request, several were unable to provide specific data around training costs, and could only identify how many officers and staff had experienced the training programmes available.

South Yorkshire Police, for example, said it had sent 71 officers on a mainstream cyber crime training programme, and provided a course on hacking and how cyber criminals operate.

The lowest level of spending was reported by the Port of Dover Police, a small organisation, which said none of its staff had been trained and no budget had been used on cyber crime training.

Cyber skills essential for modern policing

Sheila Flavell, COO at professional services firm FDM Group, said with cyber crime on the rise, it is clear that all organisations are urgently seeking to recruit, train and equip staff with the latest security expertise and cyber skills.

“Whether it’s online courses or specialist programmes, it’s encouraging to see police forces taking steps to improve IT skills of serving officers and staff,” she said.

Flavell said these skills are not only vital for modern policing, they are also essential to support and protect businesses across the country.

“That’s why so much more needs to be done to address the UK’s chronic skills crisis, to ensure we have the highly skilled workers to protect companies and the public from malicious online attacks,” she said.  

Underlining the need for cyber crime training for police forces, the report said the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that there were 4.7 million incidents of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 months to September 2017.

Other reports have estimated that 17 million Britons were targeted by phishing, ransomware, online fraud and hacking in 2017, while security firm Norton estimated that £130bn was stolen from consumers online.

Cyber crime is on the rise, the report said, and will continue to pose a serious threat to UK businesses, consumers and critical national infrastructure.

“This in turn, places huge pressure on our police forces to ensure that officers, staff, new recruits and trainees are fully prepared to handle increasingly complex investigations,” the report said.

Collaborating against cyber crime

The report quotes National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) chief Ciaran Martin as saying the agency cannot protect UK cyber space alone. “We can do it only by working with others – with the rest of government, law enforcement, the Armed Forces, our international allies and, crucially, with business and wider society,” he said.

The report notes that while some police forces are working together occasionally to develop cyber crime training programmes, the majority are working alone in this process.

“While we appreciate that individual forces have varying challenges in terms of crime, headcount and volume of citizens to protect, it would make sense to develop a more standardised approach to cyber crime strategy,” the think tank said.

Parliament Street recommends:

  • The establishment of a national police cyber strategy to enable security specialist companies to provide an agreed standard of training for all officers and staff across the country.
  • An increase in the recruitment of officers with existing cyber skills.
  • That police forces work closely with schools, colleges, universities and private companies to ensure a pipeline of highly skilled workers are encouraged to join the police.
  • Sharing of key security training services with other police forces.

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