Leeds team aims to crack the code to tackle the cyber criminals

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Cyber-crime experts from a Leeds university are teaming up with the region’s biggest police force as part of a landmark project to spot the gaps in officers’ knowledge of how to stop online offending.

It is hoped the lessons learned from the partnership between Leeds Beckett University academics and West Yorkshire Police can be passed onto other forces to help them tackle the growing threat of cyber-crime.

Vanessa Smith.

Vanessa Smith.

The £640,000 scheme funded by the Police Knowledge Fund is one of those carried out by the university’s C​ybercrime and Security Innovation Centre, which launches today.

It comes after concerns were raised that many police forces nationwide are not equipped to tackle crimes carried out using the internet or computer networks.

A study last year said that a number of police forces in England and Wales are still “in the starting blocks” in building an effective response to the growing danger of cyber-crime.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says offences involving modern technology are now so common-place that it is “outdated, inappropriate, and wrong” for the nation’s 43 police forces to leave it to specialist officers to investigate.

Though crime rates have been falling for several years in most categories, our increasing reliance on the internet means levels of online crime are rising.

Recent research from the Home Office suggests that up to around 5.1 million people are the victims of cyber-enabled crime every year.

Officials involved in the 18-month project in Leeds will report to the Home Office in the hope that the new ways of working could help transform the way digital crime is policed across the country.

Dr Z. Cliffe Schreuders, senior lecturer in Computer Security at Leeds Beckett and academic lead on the project, said cyber-enabled crime was “a rapidly emerging and ever-evolving threat”.

He said: “As technology changes and improves, so do the criminals – which is why the work we’re doing with WYP is ambitious and challenging. Our role is to work with West Yorkshire Police, helping to identify areas where they are strong and where they can be improved.

“A key part of this will be in identifying research projects the police can undertake in collaboration with us, to help improve the way they deal with cyber-enabled crime.”

Detective Inspector Vanessa Smith of West Yorkshire Police added: “This is a significant investment of time by WYP to ensure that we are the forefront of cyber-investigation.

“The 18 month project will see us work and collaborate to identify the knowledge gaps in digital policing. At the heart of the project is our desire to protect those who are vulnerable to becoming victims of crime.”

JOINING FORCES TO TACKLE CRIME

In Yorkshire, local forces have recently established their own specialist units to tackle the problem of cyber-crime.

West Yorkshire Police’s unit in Wakefield will also provide support to other criminal investigations by using specialist technology and computer software.

While North Yorkshire Police launched its team in 2014.

The Leeds CSI centre will also be the base for the training of what the university describes as “the next generation of ‘ethical hackers’. Hackers will work on breaching security systems.

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