Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1100 - 1119)



  Q1100  Earl of Errol: Would it not give more intelligence? You do not necessarily have to react to the things but it would give you the intelligence. Do the banks not have an interest in down-playing the level of these things?

  Commander Wilkinson: I think the partnerships that we have with the banks, for example, are extremely good now and we are working with them—sometimes confidentially depending on the nature of what is going on—to get a good picture of what is going on. If everybody just reported their crime to the individual police force I do not think there is going to be much benefit gained because if you have thousands of victims of one particular crime right the way across the UK, given that there are 43 police forces, you are not going to be able to get an accurate, overall picture; the banks can.

  Q1101  Earl of Errol: Surely this is where your national Fraud Alert site—if it were properly resourced and you had more than one person on it and you had the software developed for it—would answer this problem, should it be reported nationally to a single place. We have heard some evidence from Detective Superintendent Russell Day that financial institutions were not always reporting e-crime to the police either because it would damage their reputation or they knew you did not have the ability to cope. I do not know whether that is true.

  Commander Wilkinson: The Fraud Alert website is feeding information into the banks in just the same way as various other sources are. That covers that. We do have police officers working within APAX and the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit and that is directly funded and run by APAX and by the Payment Clearing Services. Therefore I think the intelligence picture is transparently shared within the banking industry and law enforcement. The key thing here is that the scale of it is so massive we can only deal with a situation where a proper crime trend has been identified or a proper suspect can be located or whatever and through the collation, working this closely with the banks, we get a much better picture of what is going on.

  Q1102  Earl of Errol: When we visited the States the FBI told us that a side-effect of data security breach notification laws was that more reports reached them since companies had to tell their customers in any case. Would you welcome such laws in the UK to give you better intelligence? A lot of data breach is going unreported in other words because people do not want people to know. Would it help your intelligence gathering if we were to have data security breach notification laws?

  Commander Wilkinson: I cannot really comment because I have not had the time to think it through properly and clearly. It is quite a complex question. I would imagine the scale of such breaches would be such that it would be very difficult to manage and I do think that the partnerships that we have in place with the banks and with other agencies such as the ISPs for example are good, they are robust and they are improving. I think that the intelligence picture is being shared in any case.

  Q1103  Earl of Errol: In the States it covers companies as well such as TKMax for instance. The EU produced a directive on this in the summer.

  Mr Hughes: It is a very interesting development. I am aware of these issues. It creates quite a lot of bureaucracy in the United States as the FBI will also tell you. Yes there are advantages. It is like all things, if you have a better picture of what is happening then you are better placed to be able to respond to it. We welcome all ways intelligence and information can be gathered. The danger of it is that if you stifle e-business by putting too many constraints upon them then what service are you also doing? You have to look at it from both sides. I know that is an unusual thing for someone in law enforcement to say, but if you make it so difficult or so restrictive then there will be an army of people who will find other ways round it as well. What we are looking at within SOCA is establishing good partnerships whereby in confidence we get the information that will help us to do something about it on behalf of the citizens and the bank customers and other customers without causing the banks or financial institutions to find themselves in such a bureaucratic tangle that they do not want to do it. It is a difficult balance to strike. I think it will be very useful to see your report on those issues and what the issue and how it works in the United States is. The issue that keeps coming back here is that the FBI is a federal responsibility and is funded in a separate way to how we are operating here in the United Kingdom. There are some differences there. There are obviously areas where we could pick up. What we are trying to do is coordinate what is happening in the United Kingdom already and try to make that a working model. I hope you wish us well on that.

  Q1104  Chairman: We are looking at it from the point of view of the individual and the individual may not trust their bank. There are clearly examples where banks should not have been trusted and they did not reveal information they had for long periods of time. That was not in the interests of the individual.

  Mr Hughes: No, I accept that.

  Q1105  Chairman: That is what the American system is trying to solve so that the individual can turn to the people who should be enforcing the law, be their help and their friend there, and they are not necessarily going to have to deal with somebody whom they may suspect themselves. I am not saying for one minute that the banks are necessarily doing anything that is against the law, but we have had cases in this country where the banks have not disclosed, for considerable periods of time, information that was in the interests of the consumers to know. That is why I think, certainly talking from my own personal point of view, I doubt this position that the individual is told it has to go to the bank first; they should go to you first.

  Mr Hughes: That is why we work very closely with the regulators, the FSA and others to make sure that we are getting the accurate and full picture. It is back again to resourcing and how best we can address the issues that are raised. We need to find ways of doing that and we are not saying we would expect individuals necessarily to put their trust in other institutions. We are not saying that. It is where we can establish good working relationships in regulated industries, where we can get the information that we need in order to combat those who are impacting and causing harm to the communities in the United Kingdom. We have to look at every way we can to find that.

  Q1106  Earl of Errol: Does it concern you, Commander Wilkinson, that you could end up with a national crime unit which is funded by the private sector entirely if the Home Office and government do not come in and jointly fund it?

  Commander Wilkinson: That is a theoretical possibility yes. I do not know what it is going to look like yet because this is exactly the phase we have just moved into, the actual funding of the unit and where the money is going to come from.

  Q1107  Earl of Errol: We could end up with a privately funded part of the police service.

  Commander Wilkinson: It may start off as being largely privately funded. The Metropolitan Police, by virtue of the role it plays in terms of investigating level two crimes, already puts considerable resources into it. They are largely unseen but represent at least half a million a year, probably about a million. We are taking that into account with the business plan. What I would like to see is that if it goes into the National Community Safety Plan that eventually it is taken out of the top slicing from all the police forces. I think the way e-crime is going, the nature of it and how it is becoming all pervasive in lots of different types of crime, there will come a point where all police forces could contribute into the national unit because it is affecting them all so much.

  Mr Hughes: There are very clear guidelines on all forms of sponsorship and when police forces or law enforcement agencies are inspected they will look particularly at those guidelines to make sure they are properly in place and properly managed.

  Commander Wilkinson: There are several parts of the Metropolitan Police for example already that are either wholly or partly sponsored by private industry. It is not new territory.

  Q1108  Chairman: What is your experience of the quality of international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting e-crime?

  Ms Lemon: My experience is that this is a necessity; it is not an option to have good relations with our international partners in this crime type. From the very first days of the NHTCU which has carried on to SOCA e-crime we have established some exceptional working relationships with our international partners. I can give examples of where we have used leverage of our relationships with other countries. For example, my counterpart in Australia needed to get into a country nearer us and I have a good relationship with that country and was able to afford the introduction on an operational basis which had a successful conclusion. More recently exactly the opposite happened where he had a very good contact on the other side of the world in Asia, I needed to make use of that for an operational reason and that saved opening new doors, creating new relationships and we were able to work together very effectively. We held the e-crime congress in the UK in this year. We invited 25 countries; 20 countries attended. We had a bespoke law enforcement e-crime day which was the first of its kind which was very, very encouraging and gave a lot of countries which would not normally have had an opportunity to speak on an international platform that opportunity. While it was very humbling because they were so grateful, it was extremely informative because some of the countries which might be overlooked have great skills and experience from which we can learn. We have the G8 24/7 network; we have the botnet taskforce; we have taskforces around the world for specific e-crime offences; Digital Phishnet; the botnet. Also we have a series of attachments within SOCA and we are trying to create new jobs and techniques and there are other countries who are way ahead of us so we have them attached to our unit on semi-permanent basis so we are starting from a greater distance in than we would have previously. So far as I am concerned, the legislation we mentioned earlier can be problematic but despite that I think it is extremely encouraging.

  Mr Hughes: We have good examples of work for example with the Russian and the Chinese and that has been very helpful. We have an international liaison network within SOCA which is now the second largest in the world after the DA in the United States of crime liaison officers. They are there for the whole of the United Kingdom and not just for SOCA. We have embedded 23 of them within other agencies in other parts of the world with whom we have strategic alliances such as the RCMP in Canada, the BK in Germany, et cetera. There are a lot of areas where dynamically we can move a lot quicker than we ever could in the past in order to take forward law enforcement. That service is available to all police forces in the United Kingdom (it includes Scotland and Northern Ireland as well).

  Q1109  Chairman: Collaboration is reasonable within the EU, is it? Would there be any point in establishing EU cyber police?

  Mr Hughes: We hold the Europol Bureau on behalf of the United Kingdom and the Interpol Bureau. Working with Europol we have a significant number of officers where all of these matters are brought together. They have analytical working files on behalf of all the EU countries around particular types of crime and cyber crime. E-crime is one of those areas that Europol work on. So we already have that sort of linkage across Europe. In parts of the world that have already been referred to such as the United States, Canada, Australia, these are not major problems. In some parts of the world it is more difficult but we are still working with those parts of the world to establish good relationships and good investigation practices.

  Q1110  Chairman: Which are the countries that give us real trouble?

  Mr Hughes: I think you mean the individuals within certain countries who cause us trouble.

  Q1111  Chairman: Not necessarily. Some countries presumably are quite uncooperative in terms of following up on leads that we might provide to them about resources and bad practice.

  Mr Hughes: We have not found too many countries who are reluctant. Often they have problems about resourcing and about expertise. As I said just now, we have worked and are continuing to work with the Chinese Ministry for Public Security. In fact Sue and myself were in China recently making sure that the relationship with the Chinese authorities was of a very high order and has improved remarkably and we were getting very good relationship building there. Again the same with the Russians where we work very closely with their Federal Drugs and Crime Units and with the MBD in Russia so we are not seeing major problems there. There are certain parts within Eastern Europe which are difficult to access for various reasons, but that is not preventing us too much at the moment. I would be reluctant to name individual countries because in some instances they have not had the full opportunity to cooperate with us.

  Q1112  Chairman: How do you resource this?

  Mr Hughes: This is very expensive.

  Q1113  Chairman: It must be very manpower intensive.

  Mr Hughes: Yes.

  Q1114  Chairman: You cannot send in teams of people to work with the Chinese presumably; you do not have the people to send, do you?

  Mr Hughes: We have officers working there but what we do—this is the point of what we are trying to do about embedding—is to work with other agencies in a global alliance as it were so that other countries see the benefit in working to help us with a particular issue that impacts on the UK on the basis that a quid pro quo applies and we will help them when they have an issue, such as the point that Sharon was referring to just now with her colleague in Australia. It is about forming good working partnerships and alliances and that is an area where particularly the SEO have helped us enormously. The ambassadors overseas their second highest public service priority is around supporting the work against combating serious organised crime. The support we have had from ambassadors around the world has been of a very high order. Again the consulate services in China put themselves at our service and were very, very helpful to us. You are right, it is resource intensive, but we will only get results if we work in that way.

  Q1115  Lord Howie of Troon: Are there some countries where the proportion of ill intentioned villains is higher than others? You probably know this.

  Mr Hughes: Yes.

  Q1116  Lord Howie of Troon: Are you going to tell me?

  Mr Hughes: It does not always help to publicly identify those countries but yes, there are problem areas and you will find they are areas, perhaps countries, where there is very low employment and a very high number of people with certain skills who are now putting those skills to other uses. That has been the case within certain parts of Eastern Europe.

  Q1117  Lord Howie of Troon: Do you have a black book or a book of any colour somewhere with this in it?

  Mr Hughes: I never carry it around. It is one of the points that we need to make with our liaison officer network. We have liaison officers in parts of the world that are very difficult and they do a very difficult and demanding job. It is one of the areas that we are trying to break down.

  Q1118  Lord Howie of Troon: You do know where you are looking.

  Mr Hughes: Yes.

  Commander Wilkinson: The only thing I would add is that some countries just do not have the legislative framework within which we can fully operate. They are willing to help but it may be the offence we are talking about is not an offence in their country or they do not have the powers that we have to intervene. I think that is worth outlining.

  Q1119  Earl of Errol: There are a lot of websites out there providing advice on on-line security and safety, opportunities for victims to report crimes and so on. What is being done to map such sites and to ensure that in future there are fewer, more authoritative, higher profile sources of information?

  Commander Wilkinson: I am very proud to be a member of Sharon's National e-Crime Strategic Group that she chairs as SOCA and I sit on as the ACPO lead on e-crime. The Met has taken a tasking from the group to map those websites—we know there are 200-plus—to actually look at them to quality assure them and to come up with a strategy about how we can map the sites and come up with a proper portal system, making it more coherent for the public generally. We are in the throes of doing that.

  Ms Lemon: I think we have a lot to learn from the work that is being done by Jim Gamble and the Virtual Global Taskforce where most sites now relating to child abuse or child issues on the Internet can be easily found and are linked to each other. There are a lot of parallels there and we just need to coordinate them.

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