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The Metropolitan Police’s e-crime busting squad claims to have saved £140m in its last six months of fighting cybercrime.

The figure, based on the theoretical earnings of the ne'er do wells collared by the team of cybercops, is ahead of the unit's full year target and 30 per cent of its four-year £504m goal.

The Cabinet Office's National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP) allocated £30 million to the fight in cybercrime earlier this year. The unit of 85 coppers is tasked with probing the most serious incidents of computer intrusion, distribution of malware, denial of service attacks and internet-enabled fraud.

In a statement, the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) talks about the business case for its task, saying it is well ahead of its target of delivering £21 in 'harm reduction' for every £1 invested. PCeU boasts it has completed a number of high-profile operations, including the arrest and conviction of five members of an underground carding ring (Operation Pagode), to cite just one example.

Estimating the extent of cybercrime losses - much like trying to figure out the costs of malware attacks or losses due to piracy - is a notoriously inexact science. But let's not quibble.

Last year the PCeU lost out on a planned £1m increase in funding from the Home Office as part of a round of spending cuts. By using the language of accountancy and business, Scotland Yard is hoping to strengthen against future spending cuts.

Police chiefs want to use early successes of the unit to press for funding in order to expand the unit's capabilities.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams, ACPO e-crime lead for law enforcement, said: "In the initial six month period the PCeU, together with its partners in industry and international law enforcement, has excelled in its efforts to meet this substantial commitment and have delivered in excess of £140 million of financial harm reduction to the UK economy. We hope to be able to better this result in the future as we expand our national capability."

Security industry figures lobbied for years to establish a PCeU after the closure of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit in 2006.

Paul Vlissidis, technical director of NGS Secure, a security consultancy and penetration testing firm, welcomed the recognition of the unit as a "valuable investment that would benefit from more funding".

"This shows what can be achieved with a concerted effort dedicated to fighting cybercrime," he said. "When people take information security seriously, solid results can be delivered. Taking down groups is a key step as it’s those structured, organised criminals who can cause really sustained damage." ®

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