The Metropolitan Police is set to increase the number of specialised officers dealing with cyber crime. Hundreds more investigators will be brought in as senior officers look to increase manpower fourfold in this area in response to what they say is “the growth industry of the criminal underworld.”
The increase in online criminal activity in Britain is significant as the Met’s commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told The Evening Standard:
“In the last year there has been a 60 per cent rise in the number of reports of cybercrime. In the financial year 2012/13, cybercrime and other types of fraud cost the British economy £81 billion.”
A new unit, set to be unveiled early next year, is expected to be compromised of 400+ officers and specialists and will be tasked with reducing the attractiveness of cyber crime which currently has less chance of being prosecuted than other crimes of equal severity –
“Criminals have realised there are huge rewards to be reaped from online fraud, while the risk of getting arrested falls way below that of armed robbers, for instance.”
Hogan-Howe, the architect of the Met’s “Total Policing” strategy which is determined to make London unattractive to all types of criminals, is looking to tackle cyber crime in 5 key ways:
- by bringing more criminals to justice
- by offering better help and advice to individuals and business who may be at risk of becoming victims of cyber crime
- by offering better support to those who have already become victims of cyber crime
- by employing more manpower to reign in the most prolific online fraudsters
- by partnering with businesses to share the cost of policing cyber crimes.
The commissioner highlighted how the current system of dealing with cyber crime has failed, saying that,
“Only a fraction of cybercrime and fraud now reported to the Action Fraud centre is ever referred on to a police force, so thousands of victims a year do not so much as hear from an officer. The traditional policing model is simply not geared towards tackling these types of high-volume online crimes, so we are proposing to create a centre of excellence with the skills and personnel to deliver a first-class response.”
The new unit will aim to help all victims of cyber crime as it will not just concentrate on high-profile cases. Whilst I’m sure online crime that involves large amounts of money will likely be a priority, lower level internet fraud will also come under the spotlight. At least some officers will be tasked with tackling high-volume but low level fraud on auction sites such as eBay, though I doubt they will have the necessary resources to look into one-off instances of such activity.
The investigation of higher level cyber crime may get a much needed boost if the new unit can forge relationships with at-risk industries.
Speaking to The Financial Times, Commander Steve Rodhouse said that sharing costs with business would “bind us together because we have a common objective.” He said that sharing costs would allow more cyber crimes to be investigated, presumably leading to a higher level of convictions.
Whether such an alliance could work is debatable though. Whilst there is a precedent – insurance companies gave £9m of funding to an insurance fraud unit in 2011 – the cyber crime area is an altogether different beast with a multitude of companies and consultants already firmly entrenched within the industries most at risk.