UK needs dedicated e-crime unit, says gov't committee

Cyber crime imageThe UK needs to shore up its ability to tackle e-crime, including copyright infringement and piracy, according to a Parliamentary report.

The Home Affairs Committee has recommended that a specialist crime unit should be set up to tackle criminal behaviour online, focusing on a broad range of offences such as hacking, identity theft, pornography, hate crimes and intellectual property theft.

"There appears to be a ‘black hole’ where e-crime is committed with impunity," says the report, noting that two hackers who defrauded PayPal of £3.5m ($5.3m) received sentences of just seven and 18 months.

It recommends that more police officers be trained to tackle online crime, and says it is "alarming" that some specialist centres such as the Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP) unit is having its funding cut, while "a quarter of the 800 specialist Internet crime officers could be axed" under current spending plans.

The UK government has already said it plans to consolidate its activities on Internet crime enforcement into a single authority under the umbrella of the National Crime Agency (NCA), but the Committee questioned why this did not include two agencies focusing on fraud.

The government should also commission a working group of experts to produce annual figures which show the incidence of e-crime and trends, it says.

Earlier this year the European Commission decided to establish a European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, and the UK is also criticised in the report for refusing to support funding of the unit.

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