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Call for national policing response to cyber

The government should consider setting up of a national policing response to cyber-dependent crime, official inspectors suggest. That idea was aired during release of a report, ‘Cyber: Keep the light on – An inspection of the police response to cyber-dependent crime’. That covered how the police and the National Crime Agency deal with ‘cyber-dependent crime’, whether from hostile state actors, organised crime groups, or those doing online harassment.

According to the report, there is ‘little understanding of demand among forces, leading to duplication of effort or, in some cases, a lack of capability in some roles such as analysts’. Inspectors saw inconsistency in response, ‘which assists those that commit this type of crime’, across police and national borders. For example, whether victims are given good advice on protecting themselves from further cyber-attacks varies, ‘depending on who they contact’; and they are ‘often given confusing and misleading advice’.

As for the title of the report, recent funding has encouraged police forces to develop their ability to respond to cyber. The inspectors found forces had yet to establish clear plans on how – or whether – they were going to maintain their ability to respond to cyber-dependent crime. “This equally applies to some national agencies that are dependent on this additional funding. In one unit we were told that staff could only hope that, after the funding ceased, there would be someone left who could “keep the lights on”.”

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “The prevalence of digital technology has enhanced our lives and interactions in many positive ways. Unfortunately, however, it has also led to an increase in cyber-dependent crime. It is estimated that this type of crime costs the UK £1.1 billion each year.

“The police have had to find ways to combat this new threat. Our inspection found that many of these measures are successful in tackling these offences. We found that the response to cyber-dependent crimes was often of a good standard.

“We do, however, believe that the current 43 force model is not an effective way to tackle cyber-dependent crime. Preventing and investigating these types of crime requires a joined-up, coherent response across regional boundaries. Having 43 individual forces, often with different structures and responding to different demands, does not readily allow for the level of consistency and flexibility needed.”

The inspection took in, between April and June 2019, ten police forces, including the Met; three law enforcement agencies (the National Crime Agency, the reporting line Action Fraud, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau) and nine regional organised crime units.

For the report visit the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services – HMICFRS website.

Comment

For the National Police Chiefs’ Council, NPCC lead for cyber crime, Derbyshire Chief Constable Peter Goodman said: “Whilst our regionally managed, locally delivered model is a significant step forward, the recommendation from HMICFRS to consider the revision of the current policing structure is welcome.”


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