Met Police's cyber fraud squad sees rise in cyber-enabled crime

News by Doug Drinkwater

Detective Superintendent Jayne Snelgrove, head of Metropolitan Police's Falcon group, says that cyber-enabled crime can only be stopped using teamwork and the right skills.

In her keynote speech at the Cyber Security Summit in Westminster today, Snelgrove followed other Met Police cyber-crime chiefs in admitting that it's been hard for London's police, which is more used to traditional methods of policing. She even said at the start of the discussion that – having only having started working in fraud and cyber-crime at the beginning of 2014 – she was ‘none the wiser really' despite the year almost being at an end.

Snelgrove heads up the Falcon (Fraud and Linked Crime Online) group, which was established back in August with a view to responding to the increasing trend of fraud and theft being committed online.

Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said at the time of the launch: "Falcon will see the Met have the best and, I believe, largest cyber-crime and fraud team in Europe, with up to 500 specialist officers dedicated to tackling this crime.” The team currently comprises 300 officers, including those based at head office covering complex cyber-frauds and pro-actively targetting serious cyber-crime gangs.

“What Falcon is committed to doing is offering the right kind of service companies and victims across UK. But we don't suggest we've got all the answers and brainpower,” she said before adding that the group is more likely to head to industry to, for example, reverse engineer malware and find its origin.

More generally, Snelgrove urged attendees not to think of cyber as a core IT issue but – when it comes to fraud at least –also consider merging the custom generation and the IT department.

“Think about cyber-security in the round…don't just think of it as an IT department's responsibility. It should also be custom generation department. But they're two separate portfolios and if they do get linked at the boardroom you're very lucky.”

She added that the insider threat is a common issue which should not be underestimated, with many firms employing up-to-date intrusion detection systems but not vetting staff to an appropriate level.

“They might be a loyal valued member of the team and do fantastic work, but that doesn't mean circumstances and mind-sets won't change.”

Industry help

It was on the subject of industry collaboration where Snelgrove – like the other speakers before her – urged the private sector to help bring cyber-criminals to justice. The Met Police, she said, has limited resources.

“We go to industry and say ‘we're detectives, we find things, but we don't know about this particularly technology,” Snelgrove said at the summit.

To add to this, she said that the geographically the nature of cyber-crime meant that the police couldn't simply deal with an investigation as if the issue stopped at ‘the end of the M25'.

As Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has touched on before, the geographic boundaries make cyber-crime go across various jurisdictions and Falcon is working with the various overseas law-enforcement agencies on crime that is facilitated by the internet.

“The interaction with law enforcement overseas does have success, but cyber-enabled crime is a big issue for [police] forces,” she said at the conference.

However she added: “Where we are is that most crime will have some kind of online footprint, but how do we investigate that?”

Snelgrove said that this kind of crime in the fraud side is happening on an ‘industrial scale', where data exfiltration is primarily driven by access to other – more important accounts – rather than an instant cash win.

“We do have officers and police staff who are highly skilled and trained in this area,” she said before adding that the police remain concerned that private industry could come along and ‘poach them from us'.

“Ultimately we do need to equip officers but we can't afford to train them all.” She added that financial investigation and cyber-crime investigators work together, and said that the group has many digital forensics officers.

But the key – like with other senior IT security managers speaking to the board – is getting the message across when it comes to ‘translating' it in court.

Adrian Culley, a cyber-security consultant and former Scotland Yard cyber-crime detective, told that Falcon - like other police groups - are forever playing catch-up in cyber-crime.

"The Metropolitan Police, along with rest of UK law enforcement have on on-going issue of dealing with increased demand with diminished resources," he said via email.

"This coupled with the inherent issues of delivering policing to a 'digital society' means that innovative thinking and solutions are required. The MPS FALCON crime hubs are one aspect of matching this. No one, globally, has yet mastered these issues, and it remains a challenge for all major cities. Whilst there will no doubt be successes, failures, feedback and realignment along the way, it is encouraging to see innovative thinking behind responses to the challenge of cyber-crime."

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