UK Launches First National High-Tech Crime Unit

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, (NHTCU), the UK's first national law enforcement organization tasked to combat computer-based crime, was launched last week by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw MP.

The NHTCU is the lynchpin in the UK's coordinated response to cyber-crime in partnership with law enforcement, business and the IT world. It will undertake national proactive investigations of serious and organized crime using IT. It will also provide consultation to local forces and other agencies; liaise with government on policy issues and provide a 24-hour point of contact for G8 countries.

The NHTCU is multi-agency and will be based in London. A Detective Chief Superintendent from the National Crime Squad, Len Hynds, has been appointed Head of the Unit and he will work with law enforcement experts selected from the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, HM Customs and Excise and police forces. The Unit will also work in close partnership with the IT industry.

The NHTCU comprises of four main divisions -- Investigation, Intelligence, Support and Forensic Retrieval -- and its role is to:

  • Conduct operations on a national and international level.
  • Undertake strategic assessments.
  • Develop intelligence.
  • Support and coordinate law enforcement operations.
  • Offer "best advice" to law enforcement and business.

The majority of high-tech crime will continue to be investigated by local forces serving the local community.

High-tech crime encompasses a variety of criminal activities contained in two broad categories:

  • New crimes, new tools -- hacking and denial of service, committed against an IT system and cannot be committed in any other way or against any other type of victim.
  • Old crimes, new tools -- fraud, identity theft, stalking, and harassment, committed against the person and using IT to do it.

The NHTCU will focus primarily on the first category, but will be in a position to assist local forces and other agencies in investigating the second category.