Police prevented from chasing cyber criminals from outside Europe

By Graeme Burton
05 Mar 2013 View Comments

The City of London and other police forces are routinely letting cyber criminals get away with their crimes - preferring to concentrate on the victims and potential victims instead - due to uncooperative police forces in jurisdictions outside the European Union.

According to detective chief superintendent Oliver Shaw of the Economic Crime division in the City of London Police Authority, the Force has absolutely no cooperation with Chinese authorities, in particular, despite the level of cyber crime emanating from the country.

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Shaw was speaking at the Inside Government conference 'UK Cyber Security: Protecting our National Infrastructure'.

"We simply don't work with the Chinese authorities because they wouldn't work with us. And, if we could work with them the value of the evidence trail that we could secure within China would be vastly compromised because ultimately it [evidence obtained from Chinese authorities] is not something that we can place before the UK courts," said Shaw.

Part of the problem, he continued, is that even if the Chinese authorities did cooperate, defence lawyers would simply cast too much doubt on the provenance of the evidence passed on from the Chinese authorities.

"The benefit of working within Europe is that we all work to a common European standard, the Human Rights Act. There are equivalents elsewhere in the world... So the 'evidential chain' is very rarely questioned in UK courts. The same could not be said of countries that are alleged to practice torture and [resort to] other activities in order to gain evidence," said Shaw.

The explanation by Shaw represents an admission that cyber criminals can effectively carry on with impunity if they choose the right jurisdictions from which to carry out their attacks.

As a result, the City of London Police tends to deal with cyber crime more by trying to disrupt it, than by chasing and tackling the perpetrators.

"The vast majority of that is dealt with not by the traditional enforcement route. We use 'disruption techniques' to minimise the impact by closing down a website or finding out which bank account is the end of the money trail and closing that bank account down," said Shaw.

The one bright spot, however, has been the increased cooperation between UK police and their counterparts in Eastern Europe in more effectively tackling cyber-crime launched, in particular, from Rumania, where gangs also have particular skill in cash machine-based thefts.

"We work extensively with the Romanian police... built up over the last three years [of] really close working relations," said Shaw. He added: "Romanian police officers are working in London on traditional crime, with Romanian criminals, but we also have that kind of relationship in terms of e-crime and payment card crime."

Indeed, the EU's new accession states know that they need to cooperate in the area of cyber crime to stay in Brussels' good books, said Shaw.

Where practical, he asserted, the City of London Police did follow up attacks with resulting prosecutions, such as a denial of service attack against a major City institution in 2012. "That was entirely followed through from start to finish, and the individual responsible for that was prosecuted, even though they weren't resident in the UK," said Shaw.

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