A ‘war for talent' is looming between the two police teams responsible for combatting cyber criminals in Britain.
The Met Police Cyber Crime Unit has revealed it is recruiting more officers under newly installed head Detective Superintendant Mark Jackson. The unit currently has 32 staff and is reported to be hiring heavily - a 9 November Daily Telegraph report said the final target number is 500 staff, but a Scotland Yard spokesman told SCMagzineUK.com the number “had not been finalised”.
The recruitment drive comes just days after the recently launched National Crime Agency's National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) opened its own online recruitment campaign on 1 November to find 400 apprentice cyber crime fighters and intelligence officers. The NCCU is also trying to sign up cyber experts from the private sector as ‘special constables'.
The competition for talent between the two has been given an extra twist by the fact that the Met Police lost 58 cyber crime specialists to the NCCU when it launched on 7 October. The NCCU also took over national responsibility for combating cyber crime from the Met Police team, which previously had a national role – leaving it with responsibility solely for cyber crime in the capital.
Undeterred, both agencies are now looking for more resource to combat cyber criminals – but at a time when there is a recognised global shortage of cyber security experts.
Last month, Ernst & Young's ‘Global Information Security Survey' found that “lack of skilled resources” in their information security function is a major issue for two-thirds of organisations.
Mark Brown, information security director at EY, told SCMagazineUK.com: “A lack of skilled talent is particularly acute in the UK, where government and companies are fiercely competing to recruit the brightest talent to their teams from a very small pool.”
Perhaps recognising this, the NCCU is seeking applicants who simply “have ambition and aptitude” in the area of work, rather than specific qualifications or experience, “providing they can prove their knowledge or interest in the cyber or intelligence world“.
When it formed, the NCCU merged specialists from the previous Met Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) and the Cyber division of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). On the same day, 7 October, the PCeU re-launched and rebranded as the Met Police Cyber Crime Unit.
The NCCU's remit is to combat serious and organised cyber crime, including multi-million pound criminal hackers and child sex abusers hiding in the ‘dark web'. NCCU's interim head is former Soca cyber boss, Andy Archibald.
The Met Police unit's remit is to investigate any cyber crime that impacts on people or businesses in London, including malware, phishing, hacking and distributed denial of service attacks. The Met spokesman told SCMagazineUK.com that this includes the recent cases where branches of Barclays and Santander Banks were targets of cyber crime attack using a simple KVM (keyboard video mouse) device. Barclays had £1.3 million stolen.
The spokesman added that the Met Police unit and NCCU are both using the same crime intelligence systems, to make information sharing easier. “The NCA are mirroring our IT and intell systems so that we can instantly share, because obviously they are taking some of our national responsibility so it fits that they may as well have the same system we have,” he said.
He confirmed the Met will tackle financial cyber criminals targeting the London area while the NCA/NCCU will tackle crimes like phishing “which doesn't hit one geographical area but hits the UK as a whole”.
He added: “The Met certainly felt that we needed a separate unit of our own just because of the level of work. The Commissioner has talked about the increase in this kind of crime and that we do need to tackle it and that we do need to keep some London-based capability. As part of the discussions around the National Crime Agency we still felt that we needed our own unit.”
Commander Steve Rodhouse, the Met's lead on Organised Crime, issued a statement saying that it has “a great track record of significant results but we of course recognise that cyber is a growing area of criminality. Increasingly fraud and cyber crime are crossing over, and we are continually looking at how we can do more and use sophisticated techniques to beat these fraudsters.
“We will continue to look at how this area of our crime fighting is resourced, particularly since the recent reorganisation of the national remit going to the National Crime Agency. It is a growing area of criminality and fraud and the threat of fraud through cyber crime impacts on people across London.”