The Metropolitan police’s e-crime unit PCeU has saved £140 million for the UK economy in the past six months by clamping down on cyber criminals, the force has claimed. The estimated saving represents 30% of the unit’s four-year target.
"[T]he PCeU, together with its partners in industry and international law enforcement … have delivered in excess of £140 million of financial harm reduction to the UK economy," said Janet Williams, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and head of the e-crime unit.
Much of this saving resulted from Operation Pagode, an investigation which lead to the closure of cyber criminal website Ghostmarket. Four men, two of them teenagers, were jailed earlier this year for their role in maintaining the website, where visitors could purchase stolen credit card details and rent botnets.
The Met said yesterday that Operation Pagode lead to £84 million in "financial harm reduction". Interestingly, a blog post written by Janet Williams for the Association of Chief Police Officers earlier this year said that the financial losses linked to Ghostmarket "added up to over £20 million".
Extrapolating this £20 million "financial losses" figure to £84 million in "harm reduction" supposes that demand for stolen credit cards etc. is no longer being met as a result of Ghostmarket’s closure.
However, as Graham Cluley, chief scientist at security firm Sophos told Information Age today, there are many alternative sites where hackers can trade stolen information. "It’s like the hydra in the Labours of Hercules," he said. "You chop off one head and two more will grow in its place."
LSE professor Peter Sommer, meanwhile, said that he was sceptical of the Met’s figures, suggesting they may be more politically driven than mathematical.
However, both Sommer and Cluely praised Janet Williams and the PCeU for their work. "I think Janet Williams is doing a very good job and her overall strategy is pretty spot on," said Sommer.
"They are doing a great job," said Cluley, "but they could be better funded."