Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has pledged to set up a new programme to attract the brightest IT graduates into the police force in order to tackle the ever-increasing threat of online criminal activity.
Speaking at Labour’s 2013 Conference, Cooper also said that the current government hasn’t got a grip on cyber-crime and she would change legislation to make it easier to prosecute identity thieves.
“Fraud is up 30 percent - but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Because most online crime – like credit card and identity fraud - goes unreported. Which?, the consumer watchdog, say half of us have been targeted by online scams,” said Cooper.
“We live our lives online now – but organised criminals know that too, and that is where they are heading. It’s a big cost for business. And a big cost for all of us when money is tight.”
She added: “When banks are forced to write off fraud we all lose out from higher charges. The police say it’s growing exponentially. Yet the government hasn’t got a grip. So we will act.”
Modelled on Teach First
The new Police First programme will be modelled on the popular Teach First programme, where graduates are placed in schools for a two-year period to gain experience in education. The programme also has close ties with industry, where after the two-year period many graduates go into a variety of different fields with well-known private sector companies.
However, the primary aim of the programme is to retain talented graduates from the top universities in education and teaching.
If successful in the next election, Labour also plans to form a new organisation to tackle online fraud.
“Peter Neyroud, former top chief constable has agreed to work with us, consumer watchdog Which? and business, to build an organisation to challenge online fraud, modelled on the successful Internet Watch Foundation which is tackling online child abuse worldwide,” said Cooper.
“In the face of 21st century crime, what we need is leadership. If the Tories won’t provide it, we will.”
Change is already happening
However, the coalition government has been making a number of changes to how the police tackle online criminal activity, as was recently outlined by City of London police commissioner Adrian Leppard to Computerworld UK.
For example, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which the commissioner claims never regarded cyber activity as a major priority, will cease to exist as of October and is set to be replaced by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The NCA will also take control of the Metropolitan Police’s e-crime unit, which has built up a decent reputation in tackling criminal activity online.
Alongside this, the City of London Police has worked to create a central reporting unit for all fraudulent activity for police forces, dubbed Action Fraud.
Cyber-crime at the fore
Despite the party politics and disputes over how cyber-crime should be tackled, Ashish Patel, regional director, Stonesoft, a McAfee Group Company, is just pleased to see that the topic is getting so much attention.
“Fighting serious crime with serious protection for potential victims is certainly a step in the right direction. The ever-increasing number of online scams targeting both businesses and individuals is astronomical and will not abate as the world grows online,” Patel.
“Arming police with easier legislation to prosecute cybercriminals hunting for victims with the aim of identity theft would help boost confidence in the UK as a secure and vibrant economy in which to do business, with an environment resilient to cyber-attack and a safe and confident public.”
He added: “In a hyper-connected world where economic value and stability is dictated online it’s encouraging to see further recognition of the far-reaching benefits tough legislation against cyber-crime can have.”