January 26, 2007 8:24 AM PST

U.K. police: We're overwhelmed by e-crime

London's Metropolitan Police has warned that the U.K.'s local police forces "can no longer cope" with e-crime, and has called for a national unit to be set up to address the problem.

In a report published Thursday and written by detective chief inspector Charlie McMurdie of the Met's specialist crime directorate, the Met said that a national e-crime unit is needed to tackle cybercrime. The unit would act as a central coordination point for police officers across the country, who are currently struggling to cope with the threat of e-crime.

The report described cybercrime as "the most rapidly expanding form of criminality, encompassing both new criminal offences in relation to computers (viruses and hacking, etc.) and "old" crimes (fraud and harassment, etc.), committed using digital or computer technology."

At present, the responsibility for fighting e-crime is split between different law enforcement units. Serious, or Level 3, crimes are supposedly handled by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), although it emerged this week that the agency may be struggling to fulfill its mandate. Less serious crimes, which fall into categories the police call Level 1 and Level 2, are meant to be dealt with at a local police level.

However, McMurdie's report shows that this approach is failing. She warned that "specialist (local) e-crime units can no longer cope with all e-crime."

The proposed solution--creating a national e-crime unit--appears to be similar to the National Hi Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which was folded into SOCA last year. Some experts have claimed that SOCA is failing to address e-crime effectively, or to collaborate properly with British businesses.

The Met declined to comment on whether its report was calling for NHTCU to be re-established, which would effectively mean that SOCA had failed in its responsibilities toward e-crime.

Other key points 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," including, for example, investigations focused on murder, robbery, extortion demands, identity theft or fraud.

• The police cannot investigate all e-crime allegations "due to the volume of offences and the national and international nature of e-crime, sometimes involving hundreds or thousands of victims."

• The Met would be willing to establish its own overarching computer crime unit to coordinate the response of its existing specialist units involved in fighting cybercrime. These are the Computer Crime Unit; Paedophile Unit; Counter Terrorist Command Intelligence Bureau; Clubs and Vice; the Computer Services Laboratory; Professional Standards; and Covert Policing Command.

• Few U.K. virus writers and hackers have been prosecuted. "The policing of e-crime faces the challenge of keeping pace with technological advances," said the report. "Hackers and virus writers have evolved from largely enthusiastic amateur 'criminals' to financially motivated, organised global criminal enterprises."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
cybercrime, police, crime, London, U.K.


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Citizens must work with police to battle e-crime
It's also up to the people to protect themselves and their information. I bet a significant percentage of the population doesn't pay attention to potential security risks and lacks basic security solutions.
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Posted by ml_ess (71 comments )
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re:Citizens must work with police to battle e-crime
I agree it is near impossible for police to maintain protection against attacks at the rate from which they are happening. I find it frustrating that these attacks keep advancing so quickly because of people's lack of fundamental know how. Take the "storm" trojan out there right now. The number of people who open emails from non-trusted and verified sources is absolutely ridiculous. People have to take advantage the wealth of information people provide. The worst is the number of laptop problems you sited in the link. Its as if no company is smart enough to really deal with laptop security.
Posted by MD525 (22 comments )
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defend yourself, nobody can't help you, Internet is a jungle

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Posted by darix2005 (31 comments )
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