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Police want new remote hard drive search powers

New laws aim to tackle backlogs

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Cyber cops want new laws to allow remote searches of seized hard drives in the hope they will help reduce long digital forensics backlogs - of up to two years for some forces.

It would mean specialised officers in London could access data held on hard drives in police evidence rooms nationally. How such information sharing would work technically hasn't been decided.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is working with the Attorney General's office on what changes to data law would be needed to allow the new Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) to gather intelligence from around the country.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, the head of PCeU, said at Infosec on Tuesday such powers would help the new unit get more up-to-date intelligence on online frauds. She said backlogs of unsearched seized hard drives were typically 18 to 24 months for the UK's 43 police forces.

A spokesman for PCeU declined to provide further details of the ongoing legal work, which would require Parliamentary approval, saying it was too early to comment.

ACPO said: "ACPO e-crime committee is currently working with the Attorney-General’s Office on a range of issues; including whether changes to the law are required. As work is currently underway, we are unable to provide any further details at this time."

At present, the proposed legislative changes don't appear to be related to EU moves to step up hacking of PCs in homes and offices by police.

PCeU, which was formed six months ago, has 20 full time network investigators who it is hoped would carry out remote intelligence work if new legislation was brought in. The unit was set up to fill in the gap in policing e-crime when the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was assimilated by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency in 2006.

McMurdie also appealed yesterday for volunteer help from industry, citing limited resources. PCeU has £3.5m in funding from the Home Office over the next two and a half years.

Earlier in the day, former Home Secretary David Blunkett said he hoped PCeU would receive more funding. ®

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