Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1040
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2007
Q1040 Lord Mitchell:
We have already touched on the issue of whether an e-crime is
a traditional crime just done in a different way, but nevertheless
the economics of the crimewhich I think you also mentioned
and which is the mass nature of it (we see this in large scale
phishing attacks which can yield a high profit for relatively
low investment)does this actually transfer it into a different
type of crime?
Mr Hughes: Again, as both of my colleagues have
said, I think the present legislation is right. What we would
look for particularly is that perhaps this is an area which could
be reflected in the sentencing, depending on the aggravation factor.
If I give one example, we are investigating at the present time
a fraud which many people in this room will probably have known
about for a long time, which is when you receive a card telling
you that you have won the lottery despite never having bought
a ticket. If you pay a certain administrative charge and so on
and so forth they will get you the winnings. This is a clear scam
and it is operated often outside the jurisdiction. It is small
scale but when you pull it together these can involve millions
of pounds being taken from people. More importantly they are targeting
vulnerable people because once you respond they put you on a sucker
list and then they go back to you and back to you and back to
you. This targets the more vulnerable in society. I would want
to see, if there were a way of explaining and bringing that to
the fore in a court case, that that should be reflected in the
sentencing because of the aggravation factor of what is going
Q1041 Lord Harris of Haringey:
Following up on that in terms of the exacerbating factor, you
have just given us an example of the sucker list and so on but
we have also received evidence about the vulnerability of young
people and new forms of bullying which are e-related. The nature
of this is that the message or the crime is committed through
something which is sitting in people's homes frequently. That
is therefore a different sort of intrusion from when you might
be more on your guard when you are going about your daily life
outside. Do you think that that could be built in as some sort
of exacerbating factor in terms of crime, that because of the
computer sitting in people's homesin their living rooms
or their bedrooms or whereverthat this is something which
makes the crime worse and should be taken into account in terms
of sentencing or in terms of recording?
Ms Lemon: I certainly think that in terms of
bullying the effects could be far more damaging because the attacks
could be so much quicker and more intense. If you are getting
bullied by a text message of SMS or IMs it is there constantly,
whereas if it is a physical bullying (which is equally bad) you
have to actually engage with the person on the occasion you see
them. Certainly it is an aggravating factor because it is then
invading the whole of your life.
Mr Hughes: I think the point you raise, Lord
Harris, is a very important one. This takes me back to when we
started doing drug investigations and often you would find courts
who were not familiar with the effects of a particular drug or
how large or what the significance of the sort of seizure was
that had been made by police or customs officers and how much
money and how much damage that could cause. We may actually be
in that same type of environment that you are describing now where
everybody has a laptop or desktop in their home and it is just
seen as a piece of equipment in the house like a toaster or a
kettle, but it is not because of the points you make; it can be
used in another way. It may be that we need to point this out
particularly with young children being bullied in this way either
by SMS messages or e-mails that have been sent to them or in some
cases where they have sent them to other people themselves. This
is the point I was making just now, how do you present this in
a court case where you can realise the aggravating factors and
the damage that this can cause. This again may be something we
want to look at in terms of prevention orders. It may be around
not having access to such technology or not being allowed to use
it in certain areas. I have to say as well that the issue here
again is about education, making sure that people understand that
having a desktop in your house there are certain things you need
to be aware of. There are many beneficial aspects of having it,
but there are dangers to it also. If I may say so, that is one
of the reasons why Jim Gamble with CEOP is making such a strong
case around protecting children on the net and the Virtual Global
Taskforce, police officers patrolling the net through the use
of that Virtual Global Taskforce to try to reinforce that message
that this can be used for ulterior motives.
Q1042 Lord Harris of Haringey:
The Home Secretary I think has recently announced that he wants
crimes where there is the use of a knife for there to be a separate
recording category so that the fact that the knife has been used
is recorded for data purposes. Would you see some value in respect
of all crime in there being some recording where it is e-enabled
simply to give some sort of indication of the problem of the scale
and the issues?
Mr Hughes: I think there would be benefit in
that. I also think, from the point of view of criminal intelligence
again, you are looking at recording knowledge about how a crime
was committed, building up a picture, crime pattern analysis,
the knowledge and MOs of individuals it would be useful, but that
is me talking like a cop now. From the point of view of protection
of communities, I think it would be useful to do that. Again it
gives you the point that was made earlier on about picking up
targets. At the moment what is actually happening in terms of
e-related crime is a little bit in the dark. We do not know too
much about the numbers involved and it would help us to pick up
on quantifying what the actual problem is.
Commander Wilkinson: The Metropolitan Police
is flagging crimes which have an e-ingredient and it is giving
us some idea perhaps of the proportion of crimes that are actually
reported that have an e-element. However, it is really complex
because is the use of a telephone during the commission of a crime
an e-crime, right the way through to the crime which is wholly
facilitated or commissioned on the Internet? It is a difficult
question. I think we should aim towards that eventually, but as
the world modernises and moves on you are going to end up with
the vast majority of crime actually being shown as having an e-ingredient.
In the Met we do actually record offences and we code against
whether a hacking virus has been used in the course of the commission
of the crime, whether a computer has been used to facilitate the
offence (which could be to any degree really) and other offences
where the Internet is being used. We do not currently count any
crime that is committed using a mobile phone, for example. Certainly
this is something which I shall be looking at. You are probably
aware that I have recently received endorsement from the Chief
Constable's Council to go ahead with setting up a police e-crime
unit that will actually pull together policy, practice, standards
and training across the whole of the 43 police forces and this
is one of the key initial aims of this unit, to try to standardise
recording, reporting and statistical analysis.
Q1043 Earl of Errol:
You made the point that some of these things are outside your
jurisdiction. Surely if the crime is perpetrated against a UK
citizen in the UK the fact that the initiator of the crime happens
to be resident outside the UK at the time is still in your jurisdiction,
in which case could you grab them, like the Americans do, using
a European arrest warrant?
Mr Hughes: The European arrest warrant is there
to be used; it has potential. That is provided it is within the
European jurisdiction, a lot of people we are dealing with are
Q1044 Earl of Errol:
If the victim is in the UK does it then fall within your jurisdiction?
Mr Hughes: It depends on the strict definition
of the offence, where it is perpetrated or where it is actually
put into effect. If it is done via an e-mail or something like
that then you have to prove where it has originated from of course.
Q1045 Earl of Errol:
The victim is in this country.
Mr Hughes: That is true.
Q1046 Earl of Errol:
He has parted with money in this country.
Mr Hughes: I accept that. We could probably
spend several hours debating the legal aspects of all this.
Q1047 Earl of Errol:
So we are going to have to look at the law on this.
Mr Hughes: I think the law is quite robust around
this. The real point is that a lot of the people we are dealing
with are outside the European jurisdiction as well and that is
why we are putting global alliances into place so they can be
dealt with in their country of origin.
Q1048 Baroness Sharp of Guildford:
To what extent do you think e-crime in the UK is actually increasing,
and in particular given the caveats you have already announced
about statistics, how far do you think the data based on e-crime
is reliable and how far it is not?
Ms Lemon: Definitely evidence of traditional
off-line crime now going on-line because of the scale and reach
and the instant contact around the world. We are forming very
successful partnerships in the UK to share information intelligence
around e-crime which I think is extremely promising. We have formed
the National e-Crime Strategic Group which is going forward with
different agencies in the UK to share intelligence and information.
Bill referred to the global alliances we have where we are also
sharing information about threats. I think we are getting a much
more comprehensive picture but with a full admission that we have
a long way to go.
Q1049 Baroness Sharp of Guildford:
Given the comprehensive picture do you think it is going up or
Ms Lemon: I think certain areas are going up.
The money-motivated crimes are on the rise; the "I can open
the Pentagon crimes because I'm clever" are on the decrease.
Money-motivated crimes are on the up.
Q1050 Baroness Sharp of Guildford:
In Get Safe Online, the survey where they announced the results
last October, what they found was that people feared on-line crime
much more than they feared mugging and burglary. Would you agree
Ms Lemon: Those were certainly the findings
and my plea from this group would be about raising levels of awareness
with realistic information for consumers, businesses and home
users because unfortunately there is not a systematic way of informing
consumers and we get dramatic headlines which do scare people
when they do not know how to deal with an e-mail. I think there
is a remedy through Get Safe Online perhaps promoting that and
developing it. I think people need pragmatic, realistic advice
to encourage them to use the on-line environment, which is what
we would recommend.
Q1051 Baroness Sharp of Guildford:
How much of the e-crime experienced by UK citizens is actually
committed by criminals based in this country and how much comes
from abroad? Do you have any feel for that?
Ms Lemon: I speak for the Serious Organised
Crime Agency. Most of our offenders in the level three crime,
causing harm to the UK and its citizens, are by people outside
of the UK.
Commander Wilkinson: We do not have accurate
statistics but that does appear to be the case.
Mr Hughes: Just to pick up on some of those
areas, again it is back to becoming aware of how this crime is
actually happening because, as you will know, there is a lot of
hyperbole in the press, media and elsewhere, a lot of scare stories;
sometimes they are very valuable but we have to be careful to
sort out the wheat from the chaff on this one. That is why one
of the things we are trying to doand Sue's unit will be
doing as wellis working with our colleagues in other sectors.
For example, banks and financial institutions that can help us
to get a picture round what is actually happening. You have talked
of the fear of the crime, people have a fear of phishing attacks.
They need to be on their guard but we do not need to slow everything
down and stop e-commerce. We have to get some accurate picture
out of that. If you read some media you will think that everybody
is subject to a phishing attack but it is not that many numbers
but equally when they are then it can cause serious damage. What
we need is for the banks to give us some accurate picture, and
they are being very helpful on this. Now of course we have moved
on because the approach that we are taking where they are not
fearing to tell us that they have been subject to this where in
the past for competitive reasons they kept things quiet so we
did not really become aware, now we have ways in to talk with
them in confidence. Sharon and her team and the police forces
now have ways to pick up the picture without exposing them to
the risks of losing customers because they have had this attack.
Unless we do that, unless we have that confidence, then we will
not get an accurate picture of what is really happening.
Q1052 Baroness Hilton of Eggardon:
To pursue the matter of getting an accurate picture, when we visited
the FBI in the States we heard about the IC3 network which obviously
would be very resource intensive, but it would help you to analyse
patterns and so on. Do you think we should have something which
is much more publicly known about the ways of reporting e-crime?
Ms Lemon: The IC3 essentially is very good for
analysis and intelligence but it is not the single reporting centre
in the US; it is an option. A third of their reports come from
out of the US so that gives a few pieces of the puzzle and my
comment would be that if we are going to have something let us
have all the pieces of the puzzle.
Commander Wilkinson: We did visit the IC3 centre
as part of our preparation for setting up the new police unit
and we will definitely take some best practice from there. I think
we have a lot to learn from it. However, I think that there is
a new issue emerging in the UK around the new strategic fraud
authority and the new potential national fraud reporting centre
that is currently being scoped by the City of London Police. Clearly
so much of e-crime relates into fraud that actually the last thing
we need to do now is start talking about a national e-crime reporting
centre which would eat up a lot of money unnecessarily and will
duplicate. I am currently talking with the Commissioner and his
staff and the City of London Police to work out how any potential
national fraud reporting centre can merge with e-crime reporting
and build into the fraud reporting centre the extra types of crime
that may be reported that are not specifically fraud. That is
something we need to look at immediately in terms of the planning
that the City of London are going through.
Q1053 Baroness Hilton of Eggardon:
Do you see that as an ACPO responsibility rather than a SOCA responsibility?
Commander Wilkinson: I would, I think, yes,
because we are the public face of law enforcement and policing
in this country. Given the fact that the City of London are already
scoping this particular issue we need to work closely with them
to see how we can merge e-crime reporting in with it.
Mr Hughes: Just to pick up on that, we are not
in competition here; we are in competition with the bad guys.
That sounds like a statement of the obvious but it has not always
been that way and you know that very well indeed. The benefit
of SOCA is that we are part of a continuum of law enforcement
in this country and not an "instead of" which you will
see from the cooperation and the collaboration here. The other
point I would make as well is that the point you make about the
ability of individuals to be able to report this to a law enforcement
agency whomsoever, we are not complacent about that. We still
have some way to go on getting this right. That is why we are
working on this strategic grouping to get all of these different
agencies who are beavering away in different areas pulling that
work together and they can assure the individual, when they have
been the victim of a crime, of a way of reporting it. This is
what Sue was talking about, that mainstreaming. If you go into
one police station in one of 43 police forces this is not going
to be the best way of coordinating that response back to us. It
will take time and the problem with the crime we are dealing with
here is that it is very fast, very dynamic and they move quickly
so we have to be able to do the same. We need to find ways to
reassure individuals when they do report that their inquiry is
being dealt with, to find ways of dealing with it at source rather
than simply starting with the investigation side. If you like,
that is one of the changes in law enforcement that we are trying
to push through, both of us.
Continuing on with the theme of who has responsibility, who is
responsible for investigating level two e-crime which appears
to fall outside the responsibility of both individual police forces
and of SOCA?
Commander Wilkinson: The Metropolitan Police
Service has a computer crime unit and does take on those types
of investigations that fall outside of those two remits. Certainly
the new national unit or the new ACPO police e-crime unit that
we now have the go ahead for would be the repository for such
reports and would certainly assess such reports and decide how
they should be investigated any by whom. The Metropolitan Police
is currently carrying that responsibility; the new unit will be
housed within the Metropolitan Police in any case. The point that
is important to make is that Sharon and I are currently working
on putting together a protocol whereby the nature of e-crime is
such that any small local report can turn out to be the end product
of a multi-national crime issue. Therefore it is very important
that the protocol between the 43 police forces of SOCA works well
so that we can work out exactly who is best placed to investigate.
Often a level two crime is actually a level three crime; it is
an international crime. We are working that through at the moment.
Mr Hughes: It is one of the areas that is vital
in what we are trying to do with SOCA and the way the police forces
work. If we do not understand and have the knowledge around the
whole of the problem then we will go at it piecemeal whereas what
we need to understand is what is actually happening here? What
you are seeing is the end result, as Sue has just said, of something
which has started elsewhere and may be happening elsewhere and
there is another way of attacking it. If we only focus on the
individual case we will only forever be rushing round with sticking
plaster whereas we need to be looking at the whole issue. There
is a danger when talking about levels one, two and threewe
have found this elsewhere on the national intelligence modelpeople
seem to think that crimes fall into nice convenient slots and
that the law enforcement response can follow that same route.
It does not; it has to be a continuum activity and understanding
so that we can address it properly. That is why we are working
so closely together so that nothing does fall between the stools.
This is an issue that we have focussed on quite a bit. If we look
at this from the point of view of the individual in the United
States we learned from the Federal Trade Commission that they
have tried to generate a standardised form that the 28,000 police
stations in the United States can have so that an individual now
knows what to do. Presumably one hopes it is then coordinated
and that is certainly their aim. If you look at the environment
here, we understand that individuals could approach the National
High Tech Crime Unit.
Ms Lemon: The National Crime Unit never took
reports of crime. We did provide advice on our websites and we
did have people answering the phone for general inquiries. That
is still the case with the exception of the website.
What should the individual do today? We learned from Gareth Griffith,
the Head of Trust and Safety for eBay that "When we try to
get police engaged, sometimes they say, `Look, we'd love to help
you. If it is not over x threshold'thousands of pounds,
or whatever it is`we can't help you'." Is this true?
The individual who has lost £500which is important
to the individual of coursedoes not look very large to
an enforcement agency but it may be one of a thousand such cases.
Mr Hughes: You have picked up on exactly the
issue I was making which is e-Bay, for example, comes straight
into us. Banks and financial institutions come straight into us
because we have set up this way of picking up the issues so that
we are picking up a big picture rather than simply responding
to individuals. e-Bay will see where there is a pattern emerging
and we can do something about it. You are absolutely right and
again we are not being complacent. There needs to be a way for
private individuals to be able to report a matter to the police
service and that is what Sue and her team are working on doing.
This is going to take a little time to put across the country.
As I say, the danger with it is that every different police station
across the whole of the United Kingdom, getting all that information
in and being able to deal with it, there are other ways in which
we deal with crime, perhaps in a different way, and that is also
what we are looking for. I have no easy answers to that at all;
it will take time to develop.
Are you definitely assuring us that this feeling that people have,
particularly with industry, that the abolition of the National
High Tech Crime Unit demonstrated that the police were no longer
serious about e-crime; you are saying exactly the opposite, are
Mr Hughes: That is not the case. It is one of
those things where SOCA is one year old; we have been working
through a new agency. We have established through several of our
different unitsSharon's is just onewith the Prevention
Alerts Unit, the Crime and Techniques and other areas around proceeds
of crime, the Suspicious Activity Reporting Database that we have
been enhancing since Sir Stephen Lander's report that has helped
banks and financial institutions report stuff to us. All of those
are ways in which we are going out into what is happening out
there to find out the true picture. As I say, there was a lot
of bits and pieces written in various media about the National
High Tech Crime Unit which, on occasion, bore little link with
reality. What we are trying to do is establish something which
will actually take forward in a better way the response that we
need to have. We are not there yet; we are working on getting
Commander Wilkinson: From the point of view
of the 43 police forces, I cannot sit here and assure you with
total confidence that if any individual member of the public was
to go into any police station in the UK that they would immediately
get the level of service they would expect in terms of the person
they were reporting the crime to understanding exactly what the
problem is. This is one of the tasks that I have really set myself
in setting up the new ACPO unit, to mainstream awareness and a
certain level of skill amongst all police officers and police
staff so that we can provide a better level of service. However,
I am quite robust around this because I think that the nature
of e-crime, because it is often geographically very wide and because
often there may be many thousands of victims of one particular
crime, I cannotand I will never, I do not thinkbe
able to take the position whereby I will be able to say to any
single member of the public that every single e-crime will be
investigated. What we need to do is to collate the picture of
what is going on and there are a lot of different means already
in existence of doing that and through various websites et cetera.
We need to get a full picture of the pattern and the nature of
the crime in order to tackle it in a very pro-active, preventative
way, to stop it happening in the first place. Often the scale
of the crime is such that the police service would just fall over
if it tried to investigate each of them on an individual basis.
It is a different type of crime from that point of view; this
is a new type of crime where the technology is allowing a new
scale of crime that we cannot deal with in the conventional way.
Q1058 Lord Harris of Haringey:
If a member of the public reports something to the new national
unit, if it meets the investigative criteria and it fits into
a pattern, then it will be followed up, it will not simply be
a tick in the box, is that correct?
Commander Wilkinson: Potentially it would be
followed up. There will be investigators for major crime that
is causing major threat or major harm at a level two, level three
basis for example. I do not have those terms of reference or those
criteria clear yet. We have only just got the go ahead for the
unit in the first place and that all needs to be worked through
and will take some time to work through. I am very conscious that
the 43 police forces need to provide a better standardised service
in terms of the reporting and the investigation of e-crime.
Chairman: We will have to adjourn for
a few minutes now for the division.
The Committee suspended from 4.28pm to 4.36pm
for a division in the House.
Q1059 Lord Harris of Haringey:
Could I just follow up about the National Unit? You have told
us you have the go-ahead; does that mean the funding is in place?
Commander Wilkinson: It does not mean that funding
is in place but we do have a plan. We potentially have a great
deal of sponsorship and we are now going to start work on a detailed
business case to work out exactly what is likely to be forthcoming.
That really is the very next step that we now need to take. I
have no doubt that a considerable amount of sponsorship will be
forthcoming and I have no doubt it will be enough to set the unit
up. It needs to be managed well because this is a law enforcement
unit with private industry backing it.