Soca's cybercops convict 21 in three years

The UK's cybercrime unit has helped achieve more than 20 convictions since its creation, government figures have revealed
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

In response to a written parliamentary question this week, UK home secretary Alan Johnson said from April 2006 until March 2009, the e-crime unit of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) was involved in 22 prosecutions and 21 convictions.

Soca's e-crime department, mandated to cut technology-enabled crime, was created following the integration of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit into Soca as part of the organisation's launch in April 2006. However, since then there has been regular criticism from businesses that online fraud and crime has not been a high priority for law enforcement.

And while 21 may seem like a small number of prosecutions for three years' work, Johnson said "prosecution is only one of a number of tools available to help achieve harm reduction".

"Resources are directed also to the development of new intervention techniques, to disrupt and deny criminal opportunities worldwide and to work with international partners," he added.

Other techniques used to combat cybercriminals include working with "internet protocol registrars" and others involved in regulating the internet, and the influencing of future legislation, according to Johnson.

"The aim is not just to pursue the criminals involved, many of whom operate beyond the reach of our courts, but to also provide long-term solutions for harm reduction on the internet," he said.

As well as fighting homegrown criminals, Soca also focuses on tackling cybercrime internationally in alliance with overseas law enforcement. It recently worked with the FBI in a card fraud sting where more than 60 people were arrested worldwide.

Soca is joined in the fight against internet crime by the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU), which supports the National Fraud Reporting Centre and helps to develop the overall response to cybercrime by UK police.

According to a Home Office strategy paper published this week, in April this year the PCeU worked with the banking sector to target a group of suspects using a computer virus to steal money from customers' bank accounts.

More than 195 UK consumers fell victim, at a total cost of £700,000. The Home Office said in a first for a UK e-crime investigation, financial institutions and police worked together to share real-time intelligence on criminal activity.

"This proactive partnership with industry resulted in what would normally be a six-month investigation being concluded within four weeks. It is estimated that this innovative approach prevented £20m worth of harm," the paper said.

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