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Police local cyber crime units get multimillion pound boost

UK policing marks the completion of the local phase of a national cyber crime programme to complement regional and national response capabilities

Every police force in England and Wales now has a dedicated cyber crime unit, thanks to a multimillion pound investment from the government, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has announced.

A lack of funding has been one of the biggest challenges in skilling-up and equipping police forces to deal with the rising tide of cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crime.

The establishment of local units in all police forces was enabled by £7m in dedicated funding from government that was used for recruiting specialist officers and staff, equipment and training.

Investment in the units by the Home Office and the NPCC National Cyber Security Programme is scheduled to continue into 2021.

“I am absolutely delighted to announce this significant step forward in improving the overall response to cyber crime in England and Wales,” said chief constable Peter Goodman, NPCC lead for cyber crime.

“In the past six years, we have introduced a robust national and regional network of dedicated cyber crime units at national and regional level, but we were still lacking a local response as part of the Team Cyber UK network.

“Every police force now has a cyber crime unit, which will investigate and pursue offenders, help businesses and victims protect themselves from attack and work with partners to prevent vulnerable individuals from being drawn into committing cyber crime. These units will improve our response to cyber crime working closely with national and regional units. This is a great start and lays down a solid foundation for each force to build on.”

In December 2018, a report from the Parliament Street think tank said UK police forces are under increasing pressure to launch criminal investigations into incidents of social media and computer hacking.

At the International Security Expo 2018 in London, the cyber lead at the City of London Police described cyber crime as the “most significant harm” facing police in the UK.

Cyber crime is also the biggest evolving crime type in the UK and beyond in terms of volume and complexity, said detective chief superintendent Pete O’Doherty, lead of cyber and head of economic crime at the City of London Police.

Security and economic crime minister Ben Wallace said cyber crime has a “huge impact” on businesses and individuals. “The new specialist cyber crime teams are a vital tool when it comes to preventing this type of crime, pursuing the perpetrators and protecting victims.

“Crime is changing and so must we. These cyber units, supported by Home Office funding, are a clear symbol of that shift,” he said.

Cyber capability

Prior to the roll-out of the force units, only 31% of forces had a dedicated cyber capability. Now, all forces will have specialist officers and staff in place to investigate cyber crime, and ensure victims receive a consistent response as well as contact and prevention advice from police following a report.

The NPCC said new teams will be coordinated and supported by the Regional Organised Crime Units to ensure investigations are undertaken at the right level, prevent duplication of effort and are effectively managed across the country. They are able to call on the extra support and assistance of the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The new teams, the NPCC said, complete a Team Cyber UK network, working at a local, regional, national and international level to provide a robust response to all levels of cyber criminality.

The new units support the updated Home Office serious and organised crime strategy launched in November 2018, which is aimed at helping build businesses’ and individuals’ resilience to cyber crime and ensures law enforcement agencies have the capabilities they need to tackle it.

The police local cyber crime units are also supported by the five-year National Cyber Security Strategy, launched in 2016, the NPCC said, bringing together the best from government and industry to develop new ways to strengthen defences, deter criminals and develop capabilities to respond to cyber criminality.

Investigating cyber offences

Jake Moore, cyber security specialist at security firm ESET, said police forces around the UK have struggled when it comes to investigating the tidal wave of cyber offences reported to Action Fraud since it formed.

“An injection of money couldn’t come at a better time, as cyber offences become harder to detect and deter. I imagine much of this money will be put into offering prevention advice around the country to people most at risk, as to small and medium-sized businesses with livelihoods on the line, prevention is better than cure.

“We mustn’t become complacent when it comes to cyber crime. We need to stay vigilant and do our best not to become another statistic,” he said. “Although this money is predicted to detect more offences, it will remain difficult to retrieve much of the money stolen due to so much ending in crypto currencies which remains largely untraceable.”

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