E-crime police see UK firms pledging techies' time

The credit crunch could lead more UK businesses to offer their IT staff rather than money to support the £7m Police Central E-crime Unit

The credit crunch could push more UK firms to pledge techies in the fight against cybercrime.

The financial slowdown in the retail, banking and telecoms sectors is expected to see more businesses offer their IT staff rather than money to support the £7m Police Central E-crime Unit (PCeU), according to joint architect of the PCeU, detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie.

The PCeU will co-ordinate law enforcement of all online offences and lead national investigations into the most serious e-crimes, and is expected to be up and running in about four months.

McMurdie told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com, that the economic slump had switched the PCeU's focus towards asking businesses for staff on a three-month secondment rather than for monetary donations.

"Initially the sales pitch to business was 'give us money and we will buy more cops'," she said. "But it is preferable to get trained, capable members of staff rather than hard cash, as they bring with them an insight into the organisation and the sector.

"A lot of companies ... are more favourable to saying: 'We can lay them with you for a three-month period'."

According to McMurdie, a significant proportion of companies' security budget is focused on tackling cybercrime and, given the cost of online attacks, investment in preventing future incidents is seen as worthwhile.

Police have already been in negotiations with industry groups including business association the CBI, payments industry association Apacs and UK fraud prevention service Cifas about businesses' vital role in bolstering the 40-strong PCeU.

Sarah Draper, head of the knowledge economy group at the CBI, said its members have already seconded staff to work with HM Revenue & Customs alongside tax officers.

"We recommend cross-pollination between the public and private sector, and in the instance of the PCeU it will allow police to understand business needs on the ground," she said.

Draper added the crunch could encourage more of its members to farm out staff to the PCeU.

"There are some instances where a business experiences a drop but does not want to sack a member of staff and as a result they could be more willing to send them off for secondment for a period of time until things pick up," she said.

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