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The Conservative Party has proposed creating a dedicated national cyber crime force in a shake-up of the UK’s existing law enforcement approach to cyber security.
The policy was outlined in brief proposals contained in the Conservatives’ newly published manifesto, in which the party said it planned to “embrace new technologies and crack down on online crimes”.
“We will create a new national cyber crime force and empower the police to safely use new technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligence, along with the use of DNA, within a strict legal framework,” the document said. “We will also create a world-class National Crime Laboratory.”
However, what this proposal would mean for the existing National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) – a core part of the National Crime Agency (NCA) – remains unclear, as government agencies are unable to comment on manifesto pledges because of purdah restrictions.
Established in 2013, the NCCU brings together cyber crime specialists from the Metropolitan Police’s Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) and the cyber crime division of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). The NCCU focuses on critical cyber incidents – such as ransomware outbreaks affecting critical infrastructure, or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, as well as longer-term activity against cyber criminals.
It works closely with UK police forces, regional organised crime units, international partners including Europol and the FBI, and cyber security experts in the private sector.
Some of its notable successes have included the January 2019 conviction of Daniel Kaye, a British hacker who used a version of the Mirai internet of things botnet to conduct a sustained DDoS attack against Liberian telecoms firm Lonestar MTN. Kaye had been hired by a senior official at a rival firm. The NCCU also assisted Dutch police and other partners in taking down DDoS-for-hire service Webstresser, executing eight warrants and seizing more than 60 devices.
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Earlier in 2019, the first steps were taken in a long-awaited plan to equip every police force in England and Wales with a dedicated cyber crime unit, backed with £7m in government funding to recruit specialist officers and staff and provide equipment and training, local investigative capabilities and a consistent level of victim support. Before this, only about a third of police forces had dedicated cyber crime capabilities.
The Labour Party has also pledged a wide-ranging overhaul of the UK’s cyber security posture if it wins power in December. This would include a review of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) with the intention of giving it additional powers as an auditor, so it could designate risk and issue appropriate warnings to end-users.