The e-crime police unit promised by the government must result in visible arrests of cybercriminals and look beyond fraud.
That is the verdict of members of the IT industry and parliament, who told CIO sister title Computerworld UK they welcomed the fact the e-crime unit that has finally been given the go-ahead.
Many said they hoped the government would listen carefully to the proposals made by the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Details are still sketchy as to whether the new unit would gain the proposed £1.3 million initial funding, or be 50-strong as the Met Police advised. The unit will not sit inside the London Metropolitan Police Service, as first proposed, but will instead be the law enforcement arm of the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC), home office minister Vernon Coaker revealed in a meeting last week with the Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Paul Simmonds, former chief information and security director at chemicals firm ICI, said that while this was a move in the right direction, he hoped the unit will reflect the proposals made by the Met Police, by taking tough action on cybercrime. Simmonds has been vocal in his support for the unit and in April, he lambasted the government for its hesitation.
“Will the unit make sure something is actually done?” he asked. “If it’s just reporting and nothing happens, people will become fed up. The results need to be in the form of visible prosecutions.”
“What needs to happen is simple. We report, they take action, there are results.”
Alun Michael MP, who was on the panel of the UK Internet Governance Forum's launch with domain name registry Nominet, said the news was "excellent".
It is important three key steps are taken in order to tackle all forms of online crime, he said, and that communities and industry are involved.
"The first leg - already funded by government - is the establishment of the Fraud Strategic Authority, led by the Attorney General's team. The second is the central unit. And the third is the establishment of the Internet Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership,” he explained. That partnership has been promised by the government.
To miss the chance for the UK to set an example in internet safety, he said, “would be criminally irresponsible and damaging to our IT industry and all who do business on the internet".
Lord Erroll, secretary to the all party internet group in the Lords, and director at parliament-industry IT group EURIM, said the home office was being “much more helpful” than it had been, by finally considering the unit. But the move was “long overdue”, he said.
It was important that the unit tackled both fraud and non-fraud crime, he said, adding: “There is no point only aggregating lots of intelligence without doing anything.”
“We need to make it really unattractive to go into e-crime by having some clear and easy prosecutions."
Last week Vernon Coaker apologised for the previous “over defensive” response of the government to a House of Lords Science and Technology report that said an e-crime unit was needed as an “urgent priority”.
"Within reason, the Home Office will look to fund a law enforcement capability alongside the NFRC, but we haven't got a budget for this yet," he said. This was a justifiable decision, because “some 75 to 80 per cent of crime on the internet could be categorised as fraud”.
“Whether people agree that the NFRC is the right place, what we don’t want is the multiplicity of the national fraud reporting centre, the e-crime reporting centre, we’re just trying to find a way of sensibly bringing all this together,” he said.
The government has taken advice from IC3, the US e-crime reporting centre. In a statement, the home office said it will decide funding “in the next few weeks”.
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment further at this stage, but detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie last week said she was “encouraged” by the developments.