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UK to launch crackdown on dark web

The UK is to enhance its specialist law enforcement response to crack down on criminals operating on the dark web

Home secretary Amber Rudd is to announce funding to crackdown on criminals who exploit the dark web at the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberUK 2018 conference in Manchester.

On the first day of the conference, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and National Crime Agency (NCA) released a joint report showing that UK businesses are suffering more cyber attacks than ever before.

The newly announced funding will see £9m allocated to enabling UK law enforcement to tackle those who use the anonymity of dark web that is not indexed by search engines for illegal activities such as the selling of firearms, drugs, malware and people.

More than £5m will also be used to support the police to establish dedicated cyber crime units to investigate and pursue cyber criminals at a regional and local level.

The announcement comes eight months after a report by think tank Reform called for an overhaul of UK policing, including recruiting volunteers from the private sector to fight cyber crime, a huge increase in digital budgets, and upskilling officers.

Currently only 30% of local police forces have a cyber capability that reaches the minimum standard. In March, a Parliament Street report revealed that UK police forces had spent only £1,320,341 on cyber crime training courses in the past three years, with some spending much more on training than others.

The funding is part of £50m of newly allocated money to ensure police and prosecutors have the capabilities they need to tackle cyber crime at a national, regional and local level during 2018/2019.

The initiative is aimed at matching the fast-developing world of cyber with a fast-developing response that recognises that it is the responsibility of everyone in the UK to fight the evolving threat.

Making the announcement in Manchester, the home secretary is expected to say that the dark web is a “dangerous place” where anonymity emboldens people to break the law in the “most horrifying” of ways.

Describing the dark web as a “platform of dangerous crimes and horrific abuse” with a “sickening shopping list of services and products”, Rudd will say that the £9m in funding will enable UK police to tackle criminals who operate in this part of cyber space.

A proportion of the £50m in new funding will also be used to develop a new national training programme for police and the wider criminal justice system, sponsored by the National Police Chiefs Council.

Read more about cyber crime

The training programme will be aimed to equip police officers with the tools they need to investigate and prosecute cases of cyber crime, including those relating to the dark web. 

The Cyber Aware campaign, a cross-government initiative, will also receive £3m in further funding for 2018/2019 to educate the public and businesses with the latest advice on how to protect themselves from cyber crime. 

“[The £50m of funding] will mean that cyber crimes are investigated thoroughly and police can support local businesses and local victims, providing the advice and care they need,” Rudd is expected to say. 

“While criminals plot and hide behind their screens, their actions have real-life consequences for their victims.

“My father was the victim of fraud and I know from personal experience the importance of supporting those who have been victimised through no fault of their own. And now that it’s happening online, it’s happening to even more people.”

In addition to the police response, Rudd will say business owners, cyber security experts and individuals can also do a lot to help.

“In the same way that shops protect themselves from burglary with locks, alarms and security guards, I expect businesses to take equivalent precautions digitally.”

The funding will also be used to build intelligence capabilities; upgrade Action Fraud IT services delivering a more streamlined platform; develop a “cyber app” for Metropolitan Police Service officers for improved advice and victim care; upskill police officers; and conduct research into the cyber crime threat.

The £50m of funding will come from the National Cyber Security Programme and existing Home Office budgets. Under this programme, the government has pledged £1.9bn of investment to 2021 to transform the UK’s cyber security. Since 2015, the Home Office has spent more than £150m to tackle cyber crime.

Earlier this year, UK law enforcement secured the conviction of Matthew Falder, a prolific paedophile operating on the dark web, who admitted 137 charges and was sentenced to 32 years.

The arrest and conviction took the combined skills and expertise of the NCA, the security and intelligence agencies and made use of the UK’s working partnership with other countries. It is vitally important that the UK has the ability to tackle more cases like this in the future, the Home Office said in a statement.

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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