Feeds

Top cop: e-crime is the new drugs

'We need to terrify politicians... appropriately'

High performance access to file storage

Forget guns, gangs and porn - one of Britain's top cops has said that e-crime is the most significant criminal threat facing the UK, and that the government is failing to respond effectively.

Chief Constable Ian Johnston, Head of Crime at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and boss of the British Transport Police, was speaking at the Microsoft UK Public Sector Law Enforcement Conference this morning in Reading.

"E-crime is the most rapidly expanding form of crime," he said, addressing an audience of police high-tech specialists from across the UK.

The chief constable gave it as his opinion that the fight against electronic villainy was under-resourced and lacked cohesive government backing. He said that British politicians "don't seem to have an appropriate sense of fear" regarding the issue.

"We need to terrify, encourage or excite them," he said. "The potential for public outcry is enormous".

There was a hint that perhaps too much police effort was being devoted to reassuring the public regarding intensively-reported but statistically rare violent crimes, with "guns and gangs" described as "the latest moral panic".

By contrast, according to Mr Johnston, the statistics by which police forces assess the amount of crime and their effectiveness in dealing with it "don't reflect the importance of e-crime".

"Some [UK police] forces don't have a high-tech crime unit at all," he said. "Those that do spend 90 per cent of their time on child pornography."

The chief constable suggested that it wasn't just the cops who were behind the curve. He said that at present there is a "postcode lottery of justice [on e-crime offences] according to the understanding of the local judiciary".

Also on the rostrum this morning was Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie of the Metropolitan Police central e-crime unit. She too saw judicial understanding of computer offences as a "major issue", and said that the police service had a "capability gap" with respect to "major cyber attacks".

The chief constable said that ACPO was planning to raise the profile of electronic crime, and that the organisation would announce a dedicated portfolio-holder for e-crime "within weeks".

Superintendent McMurdie described plans within the police service for a national Police Central e-crime Unit, or PCeU, based on her own team. Apparently the organisation currently has a budget of £1.3m from the Met, but no other funding has yet appeared.

The former National High-Tech Crime Unit became part of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency when SOCA formed up in 2005. Since then, in the opinion of many observers, the central e-crime policing function has effectively disappeared.

McMurdie suggested that the PCeU would benefit hugely from IT industry involvement, perhaps extending to staff on secondment from the tech biz.

"I'd so much rather have a team with someone from a bank, from an ISP, and cops... rather than just pure cops," she said.

Speaking to the Reg after their speech, the two officers said that electronic crime was the hot new field for career criminals, just as the drugs trade was in the 1970s, with greater profits to be earned and lower sentences - or no sentences - in the event of getting caught.

Asked how he saw the Home Office's plans for a national biometric ID card scheme in the context of identity theft and e-crime, Johnston described it as a "double-edged sword". However, he also said that "any means of proving who you are is a good thing".

Both cops felt that high-tech methods and tactics would be of use to terrorists, too.

"It would be easier to shut down the Stock Exchange electronically than to do it with a bomb," said Johnston.

"If you're doing something against [the transport system], it makes sense to combine that with an electronic attack, say against the London Ambulance Service," added McMurdie. "I would."

Overall, dealing with ID theft and e-crime in general, Johnston says: "There's no golden bullet." ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.