High-tech cops hit back against ISP claims

Despite the increasing pressure on Britain's e-crime experts, the most senior cybercrime police officer in Britain has rejected criticism of their performance

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has delivered a robust defence of the UK's e-crime-fighting capabilities, following critical comments made by Malcolm Hutty, regulation officer at the London Internet Exchange (LINX), last week.

Hutty claimed that Britain hasn't got enough qualified police officers to deal with the threat of electronic crime and cyberterrorism.

"It is surprising, to the uninitiated, just how few reports of online criminal activity actually result in a police investigation. It is surprising that so few police officers are trained and available to investigate the entire range of online fraud and attempted fraud. It is surprising that the few trained officers we do have do not have more support from, for example, computer forensics specialists," wrote Hutty on behalf of LINX, which represents more than 140 ISPs. 

However, according to Hynds, every local police force has its own computer crime unit, which was not the case four years ago.

"These are staffed by specialist officers who are experienced in network investigation and computer forensics," Hynds said. Many of these officers have been heavily involved with child-pornography investigations such as Operation Ore, and it has been claimed that this work has taken up most of their time.

The British government is in the process of formulating a new e-crime strategy, which should be published this summer.

This strategy could include an increase in the resources available for fighting e-crime, in recognition that it is a growing problem.

"The growth in the use of technology is increasing the workload for high-tech police officers, as every crime can now have an Internet or computer-related component," said a source close to the e-crime strategy review.

Even something as low-tech as a burglary could involve hi-tech police officers. If a suspected criminal was arrested carrying a PDA, the device would need to be examined for evidence. This could take much more time than simply flicking through a diary for clues.