After a bit of deliberation and double checking that I had seen what I thought I had seen I called the Police the other night. I had witnessed a crime. Even though all the facts were there my natural law abiding mind didn’t believe that it was in fact a crime. On calling the Police I gave them all the details I had, what I had witnessed, answered all their questions and left them to deal with it. I can’t go into details as the crime in question is going to court and I’ve had to give a witness statement, but I was unsure about ‘bothering’ the Police with what I had seen. Why did I feel like that?
The popular press often informs us that law enforcement resources are overly stretched and thus perhaps I have always felt that the Police are engaged in stakeouts, or doing big drug busts and far too busy to deal with a petty crime that will only inflate the already high crime statistics. So if I feel like that reporting a ‘real’ crime, how would I feel and would I ever bother reporting a cyber crime to them, or worse a suspected cyber crime?
Put yourself in this scenario; you a middle manager of an SME and you make ‘widgets’ for some industrial process. One morning you look for your latest engineering drawings, basically your intellectual property and they have been tampered with, or have disappeared. You would probably speak to your IT provider, see what they say, perhaps they can recover them from a backup, but would it dawn on you that this may have been a cyber crime, or an attempted cyber crime, and if so would you honestly call the Police?
Of course you wouldn’t, you’d put it down to human error, or a technology glitch. Can you imagine trying to explain it to a Policeman? You’d understandably feel like a fool. Guess what, you’d be wrong the Police want to hear about cyber crimes, in fact there is an entire structure within the Police forces of the UK now taking on cyber crime.
At the top of the law enforcement tree is the National Crime Agency (NCA), they investigate nationwide organised crime that is a threat to national security and they investigate cyber crimes at this national level. On a more regional level you get the Regional Organised Crime Units or ROCUs for short. With 10 ROCUs covering England and Wales, they are responsible for the investigation of organised crime at a regional level. Some of them have crime busting names too, ‘TITIAN’ is how the North West ROCU call themselves, or ‘ODYSSEY’ in Yorkshire and Humberside. Within each of these ROCUs they have dedicated resource to investigate cyber crime
In the latest report from HMIC discussing the capabilities and effectiveness ROCUs they discuss cyber crime at length. They make it clear that cyber crime is a ‘new threat’ and it sits alongside such criminal activities as modern slavery and human trafficking in severity. Although by their own admission they are still building up their capabilities and effectiveness it should be clear to all that cyber crime is being taking very seriously. Crime has gone through a digital transformation and now so is Policing.
Not only are they investigating crime, but they are also spending time and effort in education campaigns in order to raise public awareness of the threats that they face. The #becybersmart campaign that is running in my locale of the West Midlands, give 5 practical steps on basic cyber hygiene. S : ’S’trong passwords. M : ‘M’ake sure you update your software. A : ‘A’lways check for secure sites. R : ‘R’emember to shred documents containing personal details. T : ’T’hink about scams, if it’s too good to be true then it probably is.
Now to the seasoned cyber professional that all may sound like very basic advice and to be truthful it is. But this is coming from the Police, not an industry expert, or a technology company, but from the organisation who has been protecting us all since the early part of the 1800s. If the Police are going into schools, offering advice on cyber crime prevention and asking the public to be vigilant and report it, then we all sit up and listen.
During my recent brush with the law, they did say that they want crimes to be reported, even if people are not sure if it is a crime or not, because every little bit of detail can go towards a greater understanding of criminal activity and how it may be stopped. Cyber crimes can even be reported on line through ActionFraud and it really is our collective duty to do so.
So next time you are faced with witnessing a crime, be it one in the real world, or one in the virtual world, then don’t hesitate to report it to the Police. It may feel a bit odd, but if it can help stop the current cyber crime wave that is costing the UK billions of pounds annually, then it has to be a good thing.