A multi million pound government investment means every police force in England and Wales now has a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) in place to tackle one of the most complex policing challenges, it was announced today.
Sussex Police was a pioneer in this area of policing and has had a collaborated CCU in place with Surrey Police for four years. The government cash injection means the Unit has been able to increase in size, bringing on board a new detective constable and a new role in Cyber Protect and Prepare, to support victims of cyber crime, whether that be individuals or businesses.
Cyber crime is when a crime is carried out against computers, computer networks, data storage or other devices, such as hacking. It also includes traditional crimes that are enabled by computers, for example when stolen credit cards are used to buy an item online, where a person sends funds to a criminal after receiving a fraudulent email or the use of online chat forums for child criminal exploitation.
The joint Surrey and Sussex specialist unit investigates cybercrime as part of the ‘Team Cyber UK’ approach, while also providing advice to any officer across the force who encounters a cyber element within their investigation.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson who oversees the Surrey and Sussex CCU said: “From browsing the Internet on the go, to accessing social media, banking and shopping online, we now live in a digitally engaged world. This has given criminals both greater scope to prey on vulnerable people and the belief they can be invisible while they do this.
“For some time now, cyber crime has been a key area of development for us and we can, and do, investigate and convict the people committing these crimes. We’ve adapted to respond to the digital environment to ensure we’re relentless in our pursuit of criminals and reducing crime wherever that crime is committed.
“As cyber crime increasingly makes headlines, this new government investment in tackling the issue at a local level is an extremely positive step.”
The good news is a few small changes in online behaviour can thwart cyber criminals and reduce our vulnerability to cyber crime. The Cyber Aware website gives step-by-step instructions on keeping devices up-to-date with the latest security updates, and more general online security advice.
DCI Richardson added: “Prevention is a key aspect of our strategy to protect the public and we work closely with our law enforcement partners, at a local, regional and national level to achieve this.
“Crucially, thanks to the national investment, every person who reports a cyber dependent crime will receive contact and prevention advice from police to ensure they do not become a repeat victim. If you believe you have been a victim of cyber crime, please report it via Action Fraud as soon as possible.”
About today’s announcement to invest in CCUs across England and Wales, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for cyber Chief Constable Peter Goodman said: “I am absolutely delighted to announce this significant step forward in improving the overall response to cyber crime in England and Wales.
“In the last six years we have introduced a robust national and regional network of dedicated units from the National Cyber Crime Unit within the National Crime Agency to the Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) but we were still lacking a local response. The investment announced today will deliver a force level capability to investigate and pursue offenders and help businesses and victims protect themselves from attack.”
Security and Economic Crime Minister Ben Wallace said: “While cyber criminals hide behind their screens, their actions have a huge impact on businesses and individuals. Being the victim of a hack can be frightening, embarrassing and costly.
“Cyber crime teams are a vital tool when it comes to preventing this type of crime, pursuing the perpetrators and protecting victims.”
All police forces were able to access £7m worth of funding this year to build Cyber Crime Units – including recruiting specialist officers and staff to the units and investing in technology, equipment and training. Prior to this point, only 31% of forces (Surrey Police and Sussex Police among them) had cyber crime units.
Investment in the Units by the Home Office will continue through to 2021.
The Cyber Crime Units are complemented by the five-year National Cyber Security Strategy, launched in 2016 and supported by £1.9 billion of investment. This brings together the best from government and industry to develop new ways to strengthen defences, deter criminals and develop capabilities to respond to cyber criminality.
Cyber Aware is a cross-government awareness and behaviour change campaign, offering advice on staying secure.
To reduce your chances of becoming a victim:
•use a strong password or passphrase, which is at least 12 characters long and contains a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols
•never give personal or sensitive details out online or over email
•make sure all devices have up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed
•keep software and apps regularly updated
•only download from legal, trusted websites
•only open emails and attachments from known and trusted sources
•look for the padlock icon in the address bar when paying for goods or services online – it means the website is trusted and secure
•check the address starts with https:// whenever you’re asked to enter sensitive information online
•avoid using public WiFi hotspots that are not secure or ask you for personal information to access it
•regularly back up your data
•control your social media accounts – regularly check your privacy settings and how your data is being used and shared
•be cautious of internet chats and online dating – there’s no guarantee you’re speaking to who you think
•be extremely cautious if you’re asked for money
For further advice and sources of information see the Sussex Police website