The Met to go ahead with new e-crime unit

The Met will continue with plans for a new centralised e-crime unit despite the departure of the project’s main supporter, Commander Sue Wilkinson.

Nov 1, 2007
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Andy Marsh

The Met will continue with plans for a new centralised e-crime unit despite the departure of the project’s main supporter, Commander Sue Wilkinson.

She had been at the forefront of plans to create a dedicated e-crime unit in the wake of criticism of the closure of the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) when it merged with SOCA last year.

The new project aims to create a Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) that will tackle hi-tech crime, but more importantly will give businesses a central agency to report incidents of cyber-crime.

The main criticism from businesses when the NHTCU closed was that e-crime now had to be reported to their local police who were often ill-equipped to deal with the incident.

Currently, SOCA will not act on a reported e-crime unless it is of a serious nature, which means that low-level e-crime has no coordinated response.

The Met has admitted that local police computer crime units were being overwhelmed by the growing scale of this type of crime. And there is currently no centralised mechanism for collecting and collating e-crime statistics, making it difficult to gauge the scale of the problem.

A recent report on UK cybercrime from Internet criminology firm, 1871, revealed that close to three million offences were committed online last year, including more than 200,000 cases of financial fraud.

Simon Honey, head of business protection at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, said that the Home Office had not invested enough into training police officers in the area of cyber-crime, and he believes it has the impression that big businesses should be able to look after security themselves.

David Supple, director of IT and creative services at Ecotec, warned that because SOCA deals only with major computer crime incidents, there was a danger that smaller-scale ones would fall through the net.

He said: “The police will probably end up treating minor e-crimes in the same manner as real-life minor crime – their resources simply won’t stretch that far and only the big headline crimes will be followed through to prosecution.”

Cmdr Wilkinson is leaving the Met to take up a post abroad. The interim replacement will be Steve House, assistant commissioner of the Specialist Crime Directorate. The Met said that AC House is “committed to ensuring that the MPS addresses the issues raised by e-crime and [that] the related projects are driven forward”. A full-time replacement for Cmdr Wilkinson is expected to be appointed early next year.

The Met has denied concerns that Cmdr Wilkinson’s departure would affect the deployment of the new unit.

“The MPS will continue to strive to obtain public and private funding for the proposed PCeU,” said a spokesman. “The unit continues to receive support from both the Government and industry as the central coordination unit for England and Wales.”

Cmdr Wilkinson said in a statement: “There is a need for law enforcement to mainstream knowledge and training around e-crime. There is also a need for the coordination of intelligence, emerging threats and tasking of appropriately experienced and trained response teams around e-enabled crime. I see the PCeU as delivering on these issues through public and private partnership. E-crime is a growing challenge for all of us and we must work together to fight the organised criminals who impact on our daily lives, both in our homes and at work.”

*A senior technology consultant has called for the creation of a global police force dedicated to tackling cyber-crime.

David Emm, of security specialists Kaspersky Labs, said that these crimes need to be dealt with at their very roots.

He believes there is a need for a cyber-Interpol. “If not global then at least incorporating countries like China and Latin America where some of this stuff is sourced,” he explained.

“It is really difficult from a police angle. The problem is following the trail, because the crime is not local but the victim is.”

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