James Brokenshire is Security Minister and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
Technological advancements have bought huge benefits to our lives, revolutionising our industries, and changing the way we work. British businesses have been at the forefront of this change, and as a country we’ve embraced technology with all its advantages. So many of us now not just work online but live part of our lives online. In the global race, we need to ensure that the UK continues to grow our digital economy.
But as we’ve moved online so have the criminals too. Advances in technology have transformed the threats we face from those seeking to exploit the online world for illegal real world gain. Almost every crime now has some form of digital fingerprint and investigators need to be adept at identifying them. The recent attacks on Barclays and Santander show how criminals are becoming ever more audacious.
That’s why tackling cyber crime is a core part of the Government’s cyber-security strategy. This has boosted investment, increased capability and expanded training to improve the law enforcement response.
Today’s launch of the National Crime Agency and the new National Cyber Crime Unit within it marks a further significant milestone in confronting and combating the online criminals. The Home Secretary has also published an Organised Crime Strategy which has a policy response to cyber crime at its core.
The new unit will for the first time offer a centralised point for investigating the most significant and complex cases of cyber crime. It will be a national centre of expertise, using its increased operational resources to proactively pursue criminals, targeting them where they are most vulnerable. Critically, it will also have a strong focus on working with industry and other external organisations supporting both proactive investigations and a fast-time response to the most serious incidents.
This also means working with international agencies to reach beyond Britain’s borders to organised crime gangs with no respect for national boundaries. I was heartened to hear the recent comments from the FBI describing their relationship with the National Cyber Crime Unit as “the best illustration” of the paradigm shift they have been undergoing in their engagement with law enforcement, industry, and international partners.
And this is already delivering results. The shadow National Cyber Crime Unit has already helped smash a $500 million worldwide computer scamming ring through a major collaboration with the FBI and authorities in over 80 countries. The investigation successfully shut down servers that were controlling up to five million infected PCs. News of the arrest of a young person as part of an on-going investigation into one of the largest cyber-attacks ever seen – widely reported to have “slowed the internet down” – has also highlighted law enforcement’s enhanced capabilities.
But it is also how we can drive changes in the way that we investigate crimes where technology plays an important part – how we can equip the next generation of highly skilled digital detectives. Over half of the National Crime Agency’s 4,000 strong workforce are being trained in digital investigation skills. They will be able to lend their expertise to local forces to support action all the way from international crime barons to street level gangsters operating low level card frauds or internet scams.
Work by the College of Policing to train 5,000 officers and police staff over the next two years will also help wider policing to drive up skills to provide a stronger local response to cyber and cyber-enabled crimes. And we are expanding regional cyber operations, with the aim that every Regional Organised Crime Unit outside London will have a specialist cyber unit. Funding is also being provided to the Met to strengthen London’s dedicated capabilities.
This marks a step change in our response to combating cyber crime – confronting the criminals who threaten the public and driving up specialist capabilities and skills within policing. But I am clear on the need to make the job of the hackers, fraudsters and scammers that much harder by raising awareness and preventing businesses and the public from falling victim in the first place.
A significant new public campaign will launch in the coming months to promote greater awareness of online threats and simple steps to become more “cyber savvy”. The Government is also working to support businesses in defending themselves against intrusion into their systems. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills, in conjunction with the Home Office and GCHQ, have recently produced a cyber security booklet – the ’10 Steps to Cyber Security’ – outlining specific ways in which companies can defend themselves.
We have also developed a secure environment for industry and Government to share information on cyber security threats and mitigations, the Cyber Information Sharing Partnership. I have also established the Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership – a forum that I jointly chair with the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts – bringing together government, business, and academia and law enforcement to consider effective crime prevention for business and the public, and work to design out online crime.
Against this backdrop, there is significant irony in Labour’s recent calls for “something to be done” about cyber crime. In government they did next to nothing to address the emerging threat of online criminality. Their hollow calls for more laws rather than recognising the need for new capabilities and a shift in how we investigate crime show how they are firmly rooted in the past – pursuing analogue policies for a digital problem. Where Labour failed, we’ve been putting in place the comprehensive measures needed to protect the public and pursue the online criminals.