A senior member of the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) has voiced concern over possible plans by the Home Office absorb the unit into the National Crime Agency (NCA), warning that such a move might reduce its effectiveness.
The PCeU has had several successes recently, including a hand in the recent penetration and arrest of the cyber-crime ring responsible for the Zeus Trojan. The group had stolen around £44m from online bank accounts using the malware.
Charlie McMurdie, detective superintendent, economic and cyber cime, at the PCeU, said: “We won’t know which agencies and areas of the business will go into the NCA until after Christmas. A lot of people are saying cyber crime is causing the most actual harm, so it’s almost a done deal that cyber will go into the NCA.”
She drew parallels with the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which was moved into the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in 2006.
“No sooner had the NHTCU started to get [a good] reputation, then it was subsumed into SOCA and its remit changed. Putting a new agency together is resource-intensive and does take time,” she said.
And now SOCA itself will become part of the NCA, along with various other police bodies, the details of which are still being discussed.
McMurdie explained that the PCeU is currently part of the Metropolitan Police, based at New Scotland Yard. Thanks to the Met's global reputation, the PCeU is able to build good relationships with international partners, without which the unit would be far less effective, she said.
Furthermore, with the London Olympics less than two years away, the unit has an increased responsibility to defend the country from cyber attack. Major events such as the Olympics are more likely to see the world’s cyber-criminals focus their attention on the UK, thanks to the financial opportunities presented by scam ticketing, travel and merchandising web sites.
McMurdie said that it may be more prudent to move the unit once the NCA is properly up and running.
“NCA is a real opportunity, but we are delivering some really good results at the moment where we are. The worst thing is to move something when you haven’t got clarity of structure.”