Soca reveals its cybercrime-fighting successes

A report detailing work by the Serious Organised Crime Agency over the past year revealed some e-crime successes, yet cybercrime still seems to be a low priority
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

The police body tasked with fighting e-crime in the UK has revealed some of its cybercrime-fighting successes — but e-crime still appears a low priority.

The 2007 to 2008 report details work by Soca (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) over the past year.

Notable cybercrime successes include Operation Ajowan, in which Soca broke up a website where criminals traded stolen bank, credit and identity information that could have cost the UK finance sector at least £6m.

In another operation Soca blocked the deployment of an advanced Trojan that was harvesting personal and financial data — the criminals were arrested and losses restricted to £265,000 out of the possible £6m-plus.

Soca has also sent out 46 alerts to UK business, which included 11 alerts to UK financial institutions detailing more than 46,000 online account details that had been compromised by phishing and virus attacks; a system for UK call centres to protect personal data; and fraud alert systems for banks and businesses.

The report details scores of successful operations to stop drug trafficking, but there is little mention of the work of Soca's e-crime unit, and it does not specify how many of its 2,033 arrests were related to cybercrime.

The National High Tech Crime Unit (NHCTU) was rolled into Soca in 2006, prompting claims from business and politicians that cybercrime policing was being diluted.

E-crime is not explicitly identified as one of Soca's priority areas — drug trafficking, organised immigration crime and fraud — as set by the government.

But a Soca spokesman said there were more resources dedicated to the e-crime unit within Soca then there had been in the NHTCU, and added that a team of 58 staff were focused almost exclusively on cybercrime, while child pornography was now handled by the separate Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit.

"E-crime is not a standalone area as a priority for Soca but that does not mean it is less important to the agency. It receives more attention than it used to," the spokesman said.

He added that Soca's e-crime unit worked with 140 liaison officers worldwide and worked closely on cyberthreats with five other major western countries.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan Police Service are waiting to see if the Home Office will grant £1.3m in start-up costs for their proposed Policing Central E-crime Unit, which would co-ordinate cybercrime investigations by local forces nationwide.

The report also praises upgrades to Soca's IT infrastructure and services, which it says has "resulted in better access for staff to an increased volume of intelligence material across the organisation".

These include an e-learning programme; a self-service toolbox allowing access to more internal services; the rollout of Soca's IT network to liaison officers overseas; the first phase of a corporate knowledge-management system; and the development of its casework-management system to enable it to be used by more people at the same time.

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