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UK cybercops save economy £140 million, claims Met

Police central e-crime lauded for busting gangs

Britain's elite cybercops, the 85-strong police central e-crime unit (PCeU), have saved the country's economy £140 million in the last six months alone, the Metropolitan Police has said.

This sum is equivalent to nearly a third of the unit's projected "harm reduction" target of £504 million over four years, according to the force.

The stand-out case that helped the unit make the crime savings was Operation Pagode, the arrest of a gang of teens that stole an estimated £18 million through a mixture of stolen UK credit cards details and aggressive use of the Zeus Trojan to rob online bank accounts.

A second big case was Operation Dynamaphone, the arrest of a credit card and phishing gang believed to have stolen around £4 million from UK and Irish consumers, again using bank Trojans.

Dynamaphone is claimed by the Met to have saved £5.5 million and Pagode a stunning £84 million, sums based on the potential of the gangs in question to steal larger sums had they not been stopped.

The calculation used to estimate the crime reduction sums has not been publically explained but at a time of budgetary constraints it matters; the £30 million funding of the PCeU was based on it saving the public and businesses £21 of crime losses for every £1 spent according to a formula agreed between the ACPO National e-Crime Programme (NeCP) and the Cabinet Office's National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP).

One slightly confusing aspect is that the ratio of 1:21 implies a total crime reduction total of £630 million rather than £504 million over four years stated by the Met (Computerworld contacted the PcEU for clarification of the figures and will amend if appropriate).

"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 £140 million of financial harm reduction to the UK economy," said DAC Janet Williams, ACPO eCrime lead for law enforcement. "We hope to be able to better this result in the future as we expand our national capability," she said.

The PCeU's Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie emphasised the wider savings beyond crime accountancy.

"This initial result [the six-month performance] is only a small sample of the current investigations and interventions being conducted and whilst 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," he said.

The PCeU was set up in 2008 as the successor to the famous but poorly-funded National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), disbanded two years earlier. During the intervening period, the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) had been given the job of stopping e-crime, but many felt that it was already overloaded with the task fo fighting organsied crime more generally hence the NHTCU's reinvention as the PCeU.


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