Criminal investigations into computer hacking up 14% in one year

Police forces across the UK are coming under increasing pressure to launch criminal investigations into incidents of social media and computer hacking, according to a new report from the Parliament Street think tank. The news comes as senior Police Chiefs have warned that budget cuts and limited resources are leading to an increase in violent crime across the country.

Cybercrime on the rise

The new research paper, published today and entitled Hack Attack: Police Under Pressure, has revealed that 14 police forces have launched a total of 2,547 investigations into reports of computer and social media hacking over the last two financial years, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The data showed a rise of 14%, from 1,181 incidents in 2016/17 to 1,354 in 2017/18. The Parliament Street think tank also released the relevant Police notes on the incidents in question, providing further context.

In the most recent financial year, Cleveland Police reported the most incidents of hacking, with a total of 356 reports recorded. This was followed by Nottinghamshire Police which reported 246 cases of hacking.

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The largest increase of incidents between the two years financial years was the West Midlands police force with an increase from 277 crimes reported to 329 — an increase of 19%. Second with the largest increase was Nottinghamshire with 204 reports in 2016/17, rising to 246 in 2017/18.

Sheila Flavell, Chair of the Institute of Coding and COO of FDM Group, commented: “It’s clear that the tidal wave of cybercrime is draining the resources of police forces as well as businesses. Tackling this problem requires a concerted effort to recruit staff equipped with the latest cyber skills as well as extending education and training opportunities to existing employees. As part of this effort, it’s vital that industry works more closely with academic institutions, to develop specialist flexible courses, so that skills within workforces increase dramatically.”

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In addition to the data, Parliament Street obtained copies of police notes for several forces, describing the nature of the incidents under investigation. Some key findings include:

• Derbyshire Police logged in incident in 2017 where a hacker managed to access a victim’s Facebook account, stealing photos and distributing them.

• In Northumbria Known offender accesses complainants Facebook account sends messages to other parties purporting to be complainant of harassing/ abusive nature.

• Merseyside Police reported that underage children have been sharing indecent images – some have been hacked and shared without permission.

• Leicestershire Police force reported that an unknown person hacked into a personal email account and posted photographs of emails through his girlfriend’s post-box.

• In Leicestershire, a schoolchild gave her Instagram password out to friends, inappropriate messages are then sent from her account shortly after.

• Norfolk and Suffolk police force specifically referenced a crime whereby a virus was deployed into a businesses’ server which had encrypted personal data files. The virus would then demand a ransom of 1,087 bitcoins to remove it.

• Dorset Police force also reported suspicious online behaviour with a business website being hacked, the suspect was believed to be identified but there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

• Northumbria Police reported that a telephony system hacked into and the have dialled premium rate international telephone numbers costing the victim money.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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