Police e-crime unit calls for industry aid

Industry bodies are in talks with the police about providing online investigators at banks and retailers to help pinpoint the origin of cyberattacks

The UK's new e-crime unit wants industry to help out in the battle against online fraud.

Police are now in talks with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and other industry bodies about using online investigators at banks and retailers to help spot the origin of large attacks on their customers and pass the details to the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) for investigation.

The PCeU will co-ordinate law-enforcement action against all online offences and lead national investigations into the most serious e-crime from spring next year.

Police are talking to banks and retailers to convince them it will be in their interest to provide the resources needed to make the PCeU effective. The unit is seen as crucial in combating online threats to their business and customers.

Detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie, joint architect of the PCeU, said it is a priority for police forces nationwide to get ready for an influx of cybercrime reports when the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) goes live in summer 2009.

The NFRC will provide a single phoneline and website for reporting all incidents of fraud, including online fraud. The centre will also work closely with the PCeU as a central contact point for individuals and companies targeted by cybercriminals.

"It is anticipated that there will be three to four million reports a year coming from the reporting centre and we need law enforcement to be fit for purpose," McMurdie told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com.

Highlighting the supporting role that business will need to play, she added: "For example, we do not want to simply receive reports that 2,000 customers have been victims of online fraud. We want reports where businesses have identified that these attacks have come from the same IP address and this is where the money is being sent to."

Some have questioned whether the £7m put into the e-crime unit will be sufficient, and whether the unit will be sufficiently resourced to perform its role.

However, McMurdie said: "We have had substantial expressions of interest from industry in providing funding, hardware, accommodation and anything that would help in building this unit. We could probably do with more money, but the focus at the moment is to capitalise on what we have got."

Businesses have reported a growing threat from web criminals. According to recent research by the Corporate IT Forum, 65 percent of UK businesses have seen an increase in cybercrime attacks, with a quarter having suffered a DDoS attack or had their corporate systems infected by malware.

A report by security vendor McAfee also found that there is a risk that cybercrime may further slow the speed of UK economic recovery. McMurdie echoed concerns that a failure to effectively combat cybercrime will damage Britain's commercial appeal.