Business fears more e-crime after formation of SOCA

Security experts and company directors are warning that business confidence in the police to tackle e-crime could be seriously damaged by the decision to absorb the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) into SOCA.

May 5, 2006
By David Howell
Dr Brian Plastow

Security experts and company directors are warning that business confidence in the police to tackle e-crime could be seriously damaged by the decision to absorb the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) into SOCA.

Businesses will now be directed to their local police force as a first point of contact for e-crime, a move which has been criticised by Jim Norton, senior policy advisor at the Institute of Directors and a member of the NHTCU’s stakeholder group. In a recent interview with Computer Weekly magazine, Mr Norton said: “Their [forces] ability to deal with high-tech crime is highly variable. It has not been a priority for some chief constables. They have not put the resources into it.”

SOCA has stated that it will continue to support all forces computer crime units to the same level as the NHTCU had, but Mr Norton remained unconvinced stating: “There is a real risk that the role of the High-Tech Crime Unit in helping police forces will be lost with [the advent of] SOCA.”

Peter Sommer, visiting professor of security at the London School of Economics, and Malcolm Hutty, regulation officer at the London Internet Exchange told the magazine: “If there is a really complicated matter, it will be dealt with by SOCA. If it is smaller in scale and it happens in a police force where the chief constable has high-tech crime as a priority, it will be handled. In other areas where it is not a priority, it will not get a response.”

Jeremy Beale, head of the CBI’s e-business unit also voiced concerns over the changes, adding: “Structurally it is in a better position than the High-Tech Crime Unit. Whether that works out in reality to be an improvement, we will have to wait and see.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Effective working relationships with local forces will be critical to SOCA’s success, and there will be a two-way flow of information between SOCA and local forces. Local forces will liaise closely with SOCA on all SOCA-related crime, including high-tech crime and level-two crime, to blend excellent traditional law enforcement with some new ways of working.”

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