Cybercrime agency faces cuts as computer raid threats grow

Cybercrime agency faces cuts as computer raid threats grow
Cybercrime agency faces cuts as computer raid threats grow 

By Rhys Blakely and Sean O'Neill
The Times
December 4, 2007

Staff cuts at the government agency that tackles cybercrime will leave 
British businesses vulnerable to attack from criminals and industrial 
espionage, experts say.

It has emerged that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), formed 
last year, will have to shed up to 400 staff when the Home Office 
announces its policing budget this week.

The Government is also being criticised for last years merging of the 
National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), the police division formed in 2001 
to deal with cybercrime, with Soca.

The move, which experts say lessened Britains defences, went ahead 
despite evidence that web-based threats to companies were escalting.

Research released yesterday by Finjan, a web security company, 
highlighted an increased volume of cyber attacks on British companies 
from China. In particular, Finjan investigated an attack that used 
zero-day exploits - malicious software for which there are no security 
patches - that was designed to steal confidential information. It said 
that it had traced one of the sources of the attacks to a website that 
belongs to a Chinese government office. On Saturday, The Times disclosed 
that the Director-General of MI5 had written to businessmen with a 
warning that they were being attacked by Chinese cyberspies.

Soca was hailed as Britains answer to the FBI when it was launched last 
year by Tony Blair. However, it is expected to lose between 200 and 400 
of its 4,400 staff.

Ian Brown, of Oxford University, a cyber-espionage expert, said that 
British businesses were more vulnerable than they need to be because of 
the merger and planned job cuts. It is apparent now to many people that 
the merger . . . was a mistake, he said.

Business figures claim that the merged group is excessively secretive 
and have criticised it for not producing results. Soca took over the 
functions of the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal 
Intelligence Service and NHTCU, as well as much of the work carried out 
by HM Customs law enforcement division. Its priority areas are drugs and 
fraud, but it is understood that the Home Office wants the agency to 
concentrate more on human-trafficking. Critics say that leaves 
cybercrime and web-based industrial espionage too far down the agenda. 
The Metropolitan Police wants to establish a new cybercrime unit.

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