As UK Police Cyber Spending Soars, Let’s Not Forget the Value of Public-Private Partnerships

by Bharat Mistry

UK police forces have spent more than £1.3m on cybercrime training over the past three years, according to a new thinktank report. This is great to see, especially considering the escalating threat to consumers and businesses as the nation and its economy become increasingly dependent on digital systems.

But as cybercrime soars while public funding shrinks, law enforcers also need to make the most of private sector partnerships, like the ground-breaking alliance Trend Micro has forged over recent years with the country’s pre-eminent crime agency.

Spending on the rise
There’s certainly a growing need for the UK’s law enforcers to improve their cyber-skills. Some estimates claim that the country lost £4.6bn to cybercrime in 2017 alone. To put that in perspective, the UK accounts for less than 1% of the global population but comprises nearly 4% of worldwide losses. In addition, computer misuse crimes reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) by Action Fraud increased 63% last year, driven by a rise in “computer viruses” of 145%. The Office of National Statistics claimed this increase was due to a rise in ransomware and Trojans, “including several high-profile attacks and security breaches on national institutions”.

As the UK’s digital economy grows and its e-commerce industry continues to lead Europe in size and maturity, it will only attract more cyber-criminals looking to get rich quick. The government has certainly be doing its bit to fight back, with an ambitious National Cyber Security Strategy which has already seen the introduction of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Recognising the importance of digital security, it has also promised to implement the GDPR in the form of the Digital Economy Act, and the NIS Directive, so there is a legislative imperative to improve baseline security in organisations, post-Brexit.

It’s good to see that law enforcement is also aware of the urgent need to invest in cybercrime prevention. Thinktank Parliament Street collated Freedom of Information (FOI) responses from the “majority” of UK forces and found that spending on cyber hit £1.32m over the past three years, with over 39,400 officers and staff trained. North Wales police topped the list with spending of over £375,000. This included a five-day training course for 147 key staff, totalling £160,000, and two-day courses for four officers at a cost of £2,000.

The value of partnerships
However, while this spending is to be welcomed, the report argues that it would be better spent in a more standardised, joined-up manner via a national cyber-police strategy. That would help ensure consistency of training across forces. The report also argues for an increase in recruitment of officers with existing cyber-skills, potentially working with universities and private sector firms to achieve this.

In fact, relationships with private sector cybersecurity firms are crucial to the success of digital policing going forward. With Brexit eating into public finances already shrunk by austerity measures, there’s an obvious need to utilise private sector expertise where possible. There’s a huge resource of skilled professionals and cyber-intelligence just waiting to be tapped via crime-fighting partnerships with companies like ours – which can now boast nearly 30 years of cybersecurity expertise.

In many ways, Trend Micro has been leading from the front in this. Our landmark Memorandum of Understanding with the National Crime Agency (NCA) is a great example of what public-private partnerships can achieve in this area. A joint investigation resulted in a big win in January when an individual pleaded guilty to three charges under the Computer Misuse Act related to a crypting service. We’ve followed that with multiple initiatives and partnerships with Europol and Interpol over recent years.

Law enforcers do an invaluable job bringing cybercriminals to justice, and it’s great to see more of the UK’s police getting trained in cyber-skills. But the scale of the challenge is huge, and industry skills shortages are endemic. That makes partnering with private sector experts like Trend Micro essential to keep the black hats at bay.

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