London Met e-Crime Unit saves UK economy stg£140m

3 Oct 2011

The London Met’s Police Central e-Crime Unit has saved the UK economy more than £140m in the last six months and is well on course to exceed its four-year harm reduction target.

Operational activity targeting online criminals has seen the unit deliver nearly 30pc of its stg£504m harm reduction target in this initial period alone.

This figure – clearly significantly more than the projected target for a full year – relates to the amount of money the UK has been prevented from losing through cyber crime and has been achieved following a number of successful prosecutions and operations by the unit.

Internet crime recognised as one of the biggest threats

The ACPO National e-Crime Programme (NeCP), which is responsible for delivering the policing response to the Cabinet Office’s National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP), was allocated stg£30m earlier this year after cyber security was recognised as one of the biggest threats to the UK.

The funding has been provided by the government over a four-year period to support the development of the Met’s Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), an 85-strong team whose remit is to tackle those responsible for the most serious cyber crime incidents of computer intrusion, distribution of malicious code (malware), denial of service (DDoS) attacks and internet-enabled fraud.

In return for the additional funding, the PCeU was set a target of delivering stg£504m of harm reduction during that four-year period; based on a business case which evidenced that for every £1 invested the PCeU would deliver £21 of harm prevention, ie, £1:21 ratio. In the first six months alone, the PCeU has delivered a £1:35 harm reduction ratio.

DAC Janet Williams, ACPO eCrime lead for law enforcement said: “In the initial six-month period, the PCeU, together with its partners in industry and international law enforcement, has excelled in its efforts to meet this substantial commitment and have delivered in excess of £140m of financial harm reduction to the UK economy. We hope to be able to better this result in the future as we expand our national capability.”

Det-Supt Charlie McMurdie, from the Police Central e-Crime Unit, said, “The PCeU continues to take action in its continuing efforts to reduce the harm caused to the UK economy and to UK citizens by those making use of the internet to commit crime.

“This initial result is only a small sample of the current investigations and interventions being conducted and while providing an investment to return ratio of £1:35, the figure alone does not capture the other important benefits gleaned from the learning obtained from targeting the higher echelon of cyber criminals that we then share with our partners.”

Operation Pagode – resulted in stg£84m worth of harm saved

Five defendants were jailed for a total of 15.5 years following an investigation into a group of internet fraudsters who set up an online ‘criminal forum’ which traded unlawfully obtained credit card details and tools to commit computer offences.

During the 11-month operation, detectives uncovered evidence that the defendants were directly involved in the global forum (used by more than 8,000 members) which promoted and facilitated the electronic theft of personal information; credit and debit card fraud; buying and selling of personal information (including passwords and PIN numbers); the creation and exchange of malicious computer programs (malware); the establishment and maintenance of networks of infected personal computers (BotNets); and tutorials offering advice on how to commit such offences, including how to evade and frustrate law-enforcement activity and the exchange of details of vulnerable commercial sites and servers.

Operation Dynamaphone – resulted in stg£5.5m worth of harm saved

Three men were jailed for 13.5 years for their part in a sophisticated and concerted attack on the UK and international banking system which were believed to be the first prosecutions in the UK involving such detailed evidence of an organised internet phishing operation.

The investigation focused around a network of individuals who systematically obtained large quantities of personal information, such as online bank account passwords and credit card numbers, through online phishing in order to steal monies from those accounts, and fraudulently use credit card details.

Enquiries revealed that through the course of their activity, the defendants compromised more than 900 bank accounts and 10,000 credit cards.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years