The Met: We Must Do Better In War On Cyber Crime

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Commander Allan Gibson says fresh data sharing initiatives will help the Met get better at fighting cyber fraud

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) wants to send a message out to fraudsters: we’re coming for you and we’re going to get better at finding you. Earlier this year, the Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe declared a “total war on crime”. That includes cyber crime, in particular those perpetrating identity theft

As part of this, the Met has been running what are known as ‘Big Wing’ days, where a significant chunk of the force targets a certain kind of crime. Yesterday, as part of Operation Stimtone, that crime was economic fraud.

It was a mightily successful day for the Met. A whopping 112 arrests were made across London, with offences including money laundering, drugs offences, fraud, conspiracy to defraud, burglary and theft. They also seized property worth over  £1.5 million, including a rather splendid yacht (pictured left).

Sending out a message

Commander Allan Gibson told TechWeekEurope that the main cyber offence the force was hoping to crack down on was identity theft, using covert and standard investigative methods. “Today was about trying to tackle individuals who are motivated by economic gain and some are doing it for a kick or to be malicious.”

But the overall aim was to send a message out about an area that doesn’t get enough attention, the commander said. “The reason for this is about communicating with the people of London really. This is an area of crime where we need to get the message out about how big it is and how important it is,” Gibson said, admitting the Met was not doing a good enough job of tackling cyber fraud.

“We must get to grips with this crime… Sometimes we don’t hear about it but we are seizing assets all the time. We’re using the Proceeds of Crime Act to actually get assets back from criminals.

“We need to do more of it, we need to be more successful at it. That’s why we are bringing it to people’s notice and perhaps they will give us more information so we can get even more people who need to be put before our courts put there.”

Intelligence sharing

A chief reason for yesterday’s accomplishment was the intelligence delivered by the retail community. TechWeekEurope revealed yesterday that the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and top level officers from the Met are to meet every month to talk about how to share intelligence to fight economic fraud.

One could be forgiven for thinking those organisations sharing data would be happy to put their name to Big Wing days like yesterday, but some don’t want to be associated with them. If you’re giving up information, it shows you have been a victim. That would indicate there are weaknesses in your infrastructure. No one would want to highlight that. “Some of the people who give us the information obviously don’t want lots of publicity around it. But we are working with trade organisations. We are receiving information and using it with a range of methods to try to tackle the problem,” Commander Gibson said.Young man in handcuffs - copyright Fotolia

Data sharing has now become a key focus for the Met, especially in its fight against cyber crime. Earlier this year, it emerged a number of regional hubs were to share intelligence on illicit internet activity. For the Met, these will provide useful information that will feed into its Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU).

“There was a need to increase capability and capacity to deal with this [threat]. We need to work across police force boundaries and sector boundaries to work with the industry. That’s where the skills and expertise often lie,” Commander Gibson added. “We’ve learnt from the PCeU that multi-agency working, and working in a team, is absolutely critical.”

Eyes turn to Olympic struggle

Operation Stimtone was the 13th Big Wing day. It will be one of many more, but this summer’s Olympics will slow things down a little as all eyes turn to the big event.

“We’ve got the PCeU protecting the Olympics. Atos Origin protecting the infrastructure, but we’ve got the Operation Podium team of 50 odd officers who are dealing with the economic crime like ticketing issues,” Gibson added

“We’ve got a lot of our assets facing towards the Olympic crime threat. I think we are ready for it. With a fair wind we will show our preventative and proactive prevention has been successful.

“We want to make sure crime is not the story, but the Games is.”

Once the brief moratorium on the single-day offensives ends, the Met’s Big Wing days will continue as it looks to let London know the police are serious about the total war on crime. Cyber crooks might just have a tougher time of it under this new regime.

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