Law enforcement agencies require a bigger pool of skilled investigators and digital forensic experts, not more money or legislation, according to a study by EURIM that was presented at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
According to the third phase of EURIM's e-crime study, around half the UK population and 10 percent of the world's population has access to the Internet. This means that a large number of criminals also connect to the Internet, which has led to the transfer of traditional crimes to the online world.
The problem, said EURIM, is that although cybercrimes are becoming more common, members of the police force and specialist computer crime units lack many of the basic skills required to trace and analyse computer-based crimes.
David Harrington, chairman of the EURIM working party, said that although there are 140,000 police officers in the UK, only around 1,000 of them have received any specialist cybercrime training and only 250 are in specialist computer-crime units.
"No wonder we have forensics backlogs of six to 12 months and reluctance on the part of most local forces to launch any new investigations," Harrington said.
EURIM 's study makes a number of recommendations, one of which is to create specialist academic courses that focus on areas that are currently neglected by schools and colleges. The study points out that there are very basic and very advanced computer security and forensics courses, but there are none aimed at the "mass market", which is where the skills are most in demand.
"The crisis is in the middle, technician-level skills (NVQ level 3); also, the throughput of high level courses is seriously inadequate," the report said.
Neil Fisher, director of security solutions at science and technology firm QinetiQ, said public sector organisations should make more use of private sector expertise. The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and some local police forces already receive training from the company to help train their officers in the art of digital investigations.
"Only by using qualified experts from private sector organisations both in training police forces and actually conducting parts of the digital investigation, can this battle against the e-criminal be won," said Fisher.