In our modern digital world, law enforcement has needed to develop ever more sophisticated means to protect the public from serious and organised crime. In recent years, the internet has provided a fertile environment for a growing threat of cyber crime needing specialist policing. The network of Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCU) across England and Wales has a range of specialist policing capabilities and includes the Regional Cyber Crime Unit (RCCU). Catching cyber criminals, however, is far from all they do.
Borrowed from a model that the CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) use, the RCCUs use the four P strategy which is defined by Pursue, Protect, Prevent and Prepare.
Pursue: describes the obvious law enforcement role of pursuing criminals and putting them through the criminal justice system.
Protect: is best summarized as crime prevention advice for the cyber world. The RCCUs place a large emphasis on education, training, awareness, research and media and invest in reaching out to as many people as possible through their website, social media, presentations, free exercises and a weekly newsletter.
Prevent: looks at how to divert susceptible people away from a life of cyber crime. The RCCUs make efforts to support people in the right way, and that might mean helping to channel curiosity and intellect away from the lure of illegal activities and directing them towards positive careers in the cyber and games industries.
Prepare: is about preparing businesses for the worst case scenario. Testing, training and table top exercises help businesses become better placed to handle a security incident and therefore more cyber resilient.
To find out more about the projects and interventions going on to help keep UK businesses informed and prepared, we spoke to D.I Hinesh Mehta, Cyber Crime Manager with the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit.
What kind of organisations do you liaise with?
We work closely with the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), the NCA (National Crime Agency), and The Cyber Resilience Centres. On a more local level we liaise with local banks, manufacturing companies and the University.
How would you describe the cyber security awareness of local businesses?
Most people are now aware that cyber security is a big issue, but I’m not sure they know where to go for the right advice and guidance. Good information is absolutely the oil that keeps business running and with that in mind, it is essential that senior level management has the awareness and can access the correct advice about cyber security. With terms such as ‘business continuity plan’, ‘vulnerability testing’, ‘compliance’; it can feel like a minefield.
How do you anticipate security concerns changing in the future?
There are a lot of things on the horizon, such as IoT, (Internet of Things), where everything is online and connected and 5G technology, the powerful technology enabling the development of driverless cars, remote surgery, smart cities and smart homes. If we look at large businesses, a lot of them will conduct SWOT analysis or horizon scanning to systematically investigate future trends in order to understand uncertainties better. These reviews now very much involve the impact of cyber technology. It is a relatively new technology but has huge repercussions on everything we do. Ransomware, for example, is a really big threat now. A few years ago, businesses did not pay a lot of attention to it but these days, you cannot afford that attitude; it can really cripple a business. People need to be aware of what’s going on out there as the landscape is changing so rapidly. It’s important to be prepared for how the latest changes could impact you.
This must be a problem for many smaller companies who are busy just running their businesses day to day?
Yes, these issues hit the SMEs hardest. It is not their core business to look at cyber. A mind set shift is needed across all sectors regarding cyber security.
Have you always worked within IT?
I used to be a programmer, then moved into law enforcement where I’ve spent 17 years, and I’ve been in and around cyber for the last 5 years. I enjoy this job more than any other.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The rapid change of technology. Look at the last ten years, we’ve gone from the internet being solely based on people’s terminals to everyone having smart phones and smart devices. The information being transmitted has increased exponentially and therefore the risks around security too. The rise in smart devices certainly has had an impact on how criminals operate.
What wakes you up at 3am?
Cyber skills, or lack of them. There is a clear gap in the talent and the capability within the UK, this has been publicised by many people. That talent gap does concern me. The current numbers of graduates and students coming thought the system are an inadequate pipeline for the threat that cyber security poses.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Leading a transformational change in how UK law enforcement deals with cyber.
What cyber security initiatives are you most excited about?
The first one is the intern program at the RCCU. The first crop of students start here in September, they will be on a gap year from their university degree and we will put them through a full training pathway. I am very much looking forward to having new people aboard to bring vibrancy and a fresh way of thinking to the team.
The second initiative that I am excited about is the developing network of Cyber Resilience Centres. There are more opening up around the UK really soon. This will really help secure the SME part of the UK economy by giving greater cyber security protection.
What cyber security advice would you give to businesses in general?
It’s really important to understand the value of the information they hold. Information is a commodity just like gold or cash and like any commodity people want to steal it and exploit it.
We’d strongly advise businesses to take part in training exercises where they practise responding to a cyber attack and plan an organised response for such an event. Here at the Regional Cyber Crime Unit, we are trained at delivering the NCSC tool, ‘Exercise in a Box’ which is a free service.
When and how should businesses contact their local Regional Cyber Crime Unit (RCCU) ?
Anyone can contact us for help or advice.
You can find your local RCCU by looking on the NCSC website https:// www.ncsc.gov.uk where you will find information on ‘How can I contact a ROCU’ along with all the regional centres and their contact information. The RCCUs are part of the team within each ROCU.
Go to https://www.wmcyber.org– for comprehensive advice and information about cyber security and the work of the West Midlands Cyber crime unit. You will also find the weekly Cybercrime sentinel newsletter and bitesized cybersecurity podcasts, Cyber Threat Weekly.