McArthur: Tesco breach reiterates need for 21st century police force

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today warned that Police Scotland must be given the support it needs to tackle cybercrime, after it was revealed over the weekend that 40,000 Tesco accounts saw suspicious transactions, of which half had money taken.

The hacking into Tesco accounts come in the same week a freedom of information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that last year there were only 13 cybercrime recorded offences under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990.

Recently the President of The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, Gordon Crossan, that “criminals have evolved faster than the police have”, that the force lacked capacity to deal with cyber crime and that it is “too simplistic to say crime is down”.

The new figures also revealed that, amongst Police Scotland’s 23,500 officers and staff, 61 polices officers and 34 police staff were employed in Specialist Crime Division dealing with cyber related crime, despite claims that almost half of all criminal activity has a cyber element. The national force also does not know how many more positions will be created in future.

Police Scotland also confirmed that it could not provide figures for the number of cyber crimes committed. This is in part because cybercrimes can be either pure cybercrimes or cyber-enabled crimes.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

“It is worrying to hear from Police Scotland that, despite recorded crime officially falling, they don’t appear to have any idea of the scale of the growing problem of cyber-crime. The suspicion must be that reported crime figures do not reflect the true extent of cybercrime or the impact that it has on our communities.

“In a society where a click of a button can move markets, seize control of personal computers or empty bank accounts, we must have a police force that is one step ahead of those who want to abuse our technologies. We are now a society that is dependent on smartphones and the internet, and after the events over the weekend involving Tesco people are rightly worried about their safety. But senior police officers are telling us that the national force is struggling to get to grips with online offending.

“Police Scotland bosses have rightly recognised that tackling cyber crime is an emerging priority. But it will be much harder to know if their efforts are enough or whether additional support is necessary so long as the national force, ministers and Parliament are unable to understand the changing scale of the problem. That is why the national force should urgently look at how it's recording systems could better capture the true extent of cyber crime, regardless of whether it is a pure or cyber-enabled offence.

“Given there were only 13 reported offences over the course of a year under the 26-year-old Computer Misuse Act, there is also a case for looking at whether our laws are keeping pace.

“Technology is only going to keep evolving and Police Scotland and our laws must evolve with it.”

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