Soca's legacy systems hampering crime operations

The Serious Organised Crime Agency's computer and communications systems are 'falling over' and not meeting data-sharing needs, according to director general Bill Hughes

The legacy computer systems used by Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency cannot cope with their intended workload, meaning they are in danger of hampering police operations, the agency's head has warned.

"If we don't replace them, we are snookered, because the systems are falling over. [The systems] must be replaced to ensure continuity of business," Bill Hughes, director general of Soca, said on Wednesday at the Modernising Justice Through IT 2010 conference.

If we don't replace them, we are snookered, because the systems are falling over.

– Bill Hughes, Soca

Soca was formed in 2006 when the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) was merged with the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the National Crime Squad, and parts of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Immigration Service. The agency has responsibility for fighting cybercrime and online fraud, among other areas of organised crime. It has come under regular criticism from businesses that it does not do a good enough job of tackling e-crime, though it has rebuffed those claims.

The agency has already begun the process to procuring new IT systems, in a programme called Project 2010. The IT integration project has a budget of up to £500m over 10 years. "[The £500m] will be cheaper than the current system we have," said Hughes. "That's no reflection on our existing suppliers, but the world has changed."

The agency's inherited systems have a problem with interoperability, according to Hughes. "The NHTCU and NCIS systems didn't talk to each other," he said.

In addition, the agency's systems do not adequately allow the international transfer of information to Soca operatives in foreign countries, he added.

"We've got new technologies and new means to capture information and intelligence — we need to disseminate that round the world," Hughes told ZDNet UK. "[For example], we have a liaison officer in Moscow that needs a secure system to put data into the intelligence picture."

Soca has more than 40 officers embedded around the world with different law enforcement agencies, while officers also work in and exchange data with the UK intelligence agencies. It also has an officer seconded to the the UK cyberdefence and attack organisation, the Cyber Security Operations Centre, in Cheltenham.


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