Police launch a cyber squad to combat growth of Internet crime

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The Independent Online

A national police squad is to be set up to tackle the growing menace of computer and Internet crime.

A national police squad is to be set up to tackle the growing menace of computer and Internet crime.

A confidential police assessment shows that "cyber-crime" in Britain is growing, it includes such activities as money laundering, pornography, counterfeiting, hacking, and fraud.

The new computer crime team is expected to include experts from universities and the electronics industry, intelligence from the security services MI6 and MI5, as well as specialist police officers.

The squad is expected to be based at the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) in London. Ministers have given their backing to the idea and the police intend to ask Home Office officials next month for extra funding for the project.

The police have already taken advice from code-breaking experts at the National Security Agency, the American intelligence organisation, and plan to exchange information with the FBI.

The squad is expected to be called the "High Tech Crime Unit" and will have "cells" or specialist sectors to deal with different types of cyber-crime. They will cover a range of areas, which have been identified in a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), that include fraud, pornography, paedophile activity, spreading race hate, counterfeiting, gambling, hacking and stealing information, software piracy, money laundering, and sabotage involving computer viruses.

The unit follows growing unease among chief constables and John Abbott, the director general of NCIS, about the growth in crime committed using computer systems and the Internet. Millions of pounds are lost every year as criminals switch from traditional methods of law-breaking to cyber offences where there are fewer risks of being caught.

David Phillips, the chief constable of Kent and head of the Acpo's crime committee, said: "Traditional crimes - deception, fraud, pornography, swindles of all kind - are taking place via the Internet. We have to go on the offensive as hunters in this sea of information.

"You have to go into deep battle and attack criminals whenever they surface." He argued that the lack of a specialist team meant that "at present we are almost blind."

He said: "We recently had discussions with [computer experts from] the USA who told us they were dealing with millions of pounds of criminal transactions. They are just mind-boggling levels of crime."

He added that the squad, which is likely to be set up next year, would link up with forces throughout the country.