The true scale of online crime in the UK has been vastly under-estimated because the majority of criminal activity still goes unreported, MPs have warned, with cyber gangs potentially getting “off the hook” as a result.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has said much low-level Internet-based financial crime was falling into a “black hole” and was not reported to the police.
The MPs called for a dedicated cyber-espionage team to respond to attacks, but had been told by Adrian Leppard, deputy assistant commissioner at the City of London Police, that up to a quarter of the UK’s 800 specialist Internet crime officers could be lost due to budget cuts.
The MPs said police cutbacks came on top of proposed 10% cuts to the budget of the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
“At a time when fraud and e-crime is going up, the capability of the country to address it is going down,” the report concluded. “Ministers have acknowledged the increasing threat of e-crime but it is clear that sufficient funding and resources have not been allocated to the law enforcement responsible for tackling it.”
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said the UK’s response to e-crime was too fractured. “We are not winning the war on online criminal activity. We are being too complacent about these e-wars because the victims are hidden in cyberspace.”
He added: “You can steal more on the Internet than you can by robbing a bank. If we don’t have a 21st Century response to this 21st Century crime, we will be letting those involved in these gangs off the hook.”
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