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London police can't cope with cybercrime

Met boss calls for dedicated cybercrime unit

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London's Metropolitan Police Service is unable to cope with cybercrime, according to a report written by a Met boss, which recommended setting up a new dedicated unit for cybercrime.

There used to be a force dedicated to exactly that, but it was subsumed into the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Called the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), it became part of SOCA when that was established by 2005's Serious and Organised Crime Act.

Now the country's biggest police force says local forces' e-crime units cannot cope with the ever increasing amount of cybercrime.

"The MPS assessment is that specialist e-crime units can no longer cope with all e-crime," the report's author, DCI McMurdie, said in the report. "The ability of law enforcement to investigate all types of e-crime locally and globally must be 'mainstreamed' as an integral part of every investigation, whether it be specialist, or murder, robbery, extortion demands, identity theft or fraud."

The report is from the Metropolitan Police Service to the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that oversees the Met. The report says e-crime is a much bigger problem in the UK than has been previously thought.

"There is an issue of under reporting across the UK," it says. "A US survey identified the global cost of e-crime as £1 trillion annually. Lloyds of London estimated that the recent 'I Love You' virus cost the global economy $10bn. A recent report by the DTI/PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) indicated that 84 per cent of large UK businesses had a malicious security incident last year and that 21 per cent of respondents to a Government survey felt 'at risk' to e-crime whereas only 16 per cent worried more about a burglary."

"It is widely recognized that e-crime is the most rapidly expanding form of criminality, encompassing both new criminal offences in relation to computers (viruses and hacking etc.) and 'old' crimes (fraud, harassment etc.), committed using digital or computer technology," the report said.

The Met is currently conducting a review of its approach to e-crime. "A review of all MPS high-tech assets and external relationships has been conducted to identify areas for improvement or where gaps exist that require addressing," the report said.

It identified digital forensics as the area most in need of investment in the near future. "With increasing utilisation of digital technology, the demand for associated forensic services is likely to increase by 30 to 40 per cent over 2006/7," it said. "There is a need to plan for future demand, in order to prioritise expenditure on the increasing costs of outsourcing."

Other bodies have realised the need for a specialist e-crime force, and the Association of Chief Police Officers is also investigating the possibility of creating a replacement agency for the NHTCU, the report said.

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