In focus: Giles Herdale talks on policing a new world of cyber crime

How is police training changing to meet the modern demands of cyber crime?

​Cyber crime is all over the media. Scarcely a day goes by without a reference to a new cyber scam, malware or report of online child abuse. And then there is the well reported use by jihadists of social media as a propaganda and recruiting tool.

But what cyber crime is, whether it is a new crime or a new means of committing existing crimes, and what it means for policing, is much less well understood.

What is clear is that as people spend more and more of their lives online so the opportunities for criminals grow. The growth of electronic payment, e-commerce and new digital services provide new opportunities.  The most profound change as far as crime is concerned is that the relationship between offender, victim and location has changed. One offender can target multiple victims they have never met on the other side of the world.  And can do so leaving virtually no trace to connect them.

They could be motivated by money, power, ideology or in some cases abusing and humiliating complete strangers. This presents an unprecedented challenge to policing, perhaps one of the most profound changes in the last 180 years.

It's a challenge we are only just beginning to understand. Although cybercrime was classified as a tier 1 national security threat in 2010 this focus on national security meant that the focus of the response was aimed at building national capabilities to respond to cyber attack.  The National Cyber-crime Unit has been established in the National Crime Agency.  This year that has been extended to developing regional cyber units, and in the last few months the Met has launched its Falcon command to address cyber-enabled acquisitive crime and fraud.  But it is clear that the policing response needs to go beyond specialist capabilities.  Within the next few years cyber crime is going to be a meaningless term, it will just be crime.

What does this mean to officers working in local policing teams? What's not in doubt is that increasingly calls for service are going to involve something happening online, whether abuse on social media, an attempted fraud, a parent worried their teenager is being bullied online, or a person concerned that they have shared something online that they wish they hadn't.

This needs new thinking and skills.  Mainstream skills in recognising sources of digital evidence that can support any investigation.  Sources of advice that officers can provide to the public about keeping themselves safe, and how to assist investigations by preserving valuable evidence. Building links with small businesses who are some of the most vulnerable to compromise, and least trusting of the police. As well as developing partnerships with industry and academia so that policing can access skills and experience about developments in technology that it will never have in house.

This is a very real change for policing and one that the College must be at the heart of.  It will have major implications for skills and education. The College already does a lot of training, and this year over 3,000 officers nationally will complete the Mainstreaming Cyber Crime Course. The course has been incorporated into the initial detective training programme. This month the College is starting to roll out Digital Media Investigator training to give more knowledge to investigators about sources of digital evidence. 

The College is developing cyber Authorised Professional Practice and has described capabilities at force and regional level. But it needs to go further.

To truly ensure that policing can cope with the way in which people live their lives in the 21st century we'll need to bring together four key elements - leadership, engagement, evidence and partnership working.

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