Former CISO blasts lack of national e-crime unit

The former chief information and security officer (CISO) at chemicals firm ICI has blasted the lack of a national police unit dealing with online crime.

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The former chief information and security officer (CISO) at chemicals firm ICI has blasted the lack of a national police unit dealing with online crime.

Paul Simmonds made strong calls for a unit to be set up, calling it a “no brainer”, as Scotland Yard said that it was still waiting for the government to approve its proposed £5.3 million e-crime centre, which would begin with an initial investment of £1.3 million.

“I hope that the government sees sense,” he said.

Simmonds, who was ICI’s CISO until after the company’s takeover by Azko Nobel at the start of the year, protested that government spending on the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was only approximately 10 percent of what was spent on tackling drug crime. Worse than that, he said, was that only a tenth of SOCA spending was on online crime.

“That means the UK is spending only one percent on high tech crime of what is spent on drug crime,” he said. “But global internet crime has overtaken drugs crime. What we desperately need is investment and a response to what's happening.”

Speaking at the InfoSec conference in London, Simmonds said he had preferred being able to liaise with the National High Tech Crime Unit, but communication had become more difficult after this was incorporated into SOCA in 2006.

“It scares me that [a dedicated e-crime unit] is not there. I’ve been given all sorts of excuses as to why there is no high tech crime unit, but frankly the fact it isn’t happening is not good enough.”

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, who now works in covert policing and is heading up Scotland Yard’s case for the £5.3 million, 50-strong, national e-crime reporting and response unit, said she was still waiting for an answer from home office minister Vernon Coaker.

“I’m hopeful it’ll be days, not months,” she told Computerworld UK. “The case has gone back and forth, in order to make sure there is clarity and that there wouldn’t be any duplication of effort. I’m optimistic.”

She contrasted the £5.3 million proposal against the £25 million budget of the former National High Tech Crime Unit. And responding to suggestions in the press that businesses could worry that reporting some online crimes could lead to stories appearing in the press, McMurdie said all efforts would be made to keep cases confidential.

McMurdie said the police was now recruiting special constables to cover its current, more limited computer crime activities, and asked for sponsors to come forward. “We really want partnership with the industry,” she said.