Blog: Action Fraud helpline not enough against cyber crime

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  • Revamped Action Fraud helpline will launch in September
  • It will allow large organisations to report as many as 1000 crimes at once
  • It will generate huge volumes of data the police may not be able to sift through
  • Public awareness and behavioural change are needed to tackle cyber crime

The police alone cannot tackle cyber crime and the revamped fraud reporting centre may prove less helpful than hoped

The fight against fraud has become a burning issue in recent years. Last year's data breach at Talk Talk, which exposed the personal details of 150,000 customers, shows just how pressing it is to address it. Not surprisingly, the government has started looking into ways to fight against fraud, with the £35m revamp of the Action Fraud helpline set to come into effect later this year.

Despite the government's efforts, though, this online reporting tool is a far cry from a solution to the threat of fraud and, in particular, cyber crime.

While it is no doubt a positive sign that the issue of cyber crime is being addressed, the improvements to the helpline seem to rely on the police's ability to do yet more sifting through many crime reports. Its proponents suggest the revamp makes the Action Fraud helpline better at tracking existing investigations and easier for larger organisations to report as many as 1000 crimes at once. If the job is done, it seems unlikely that it will be carried out with the care and detail that would be required for investigating such crimes.

What is perhaps overlooked in introducing such a revamp is that cyber crime often has its root in human error. After all, even if a cyber attack is carefully planned and sophisticated, it still depends on conning those in control of security measures or with important personal information to let their guard down.

While the intent of the government's revamp of the Action Fraud helpline is worthy of praise, in practice it is deeply flawed as a solution to the fraud problem. With people soon being able to report many crimes at once, its success depends entirely on the ability of the police force to analyse the huge data on both crimes and investigations that the new system will generate. The huge volumes of data that will be imposed on an already overworked police force will increase to a point that they will not have the capacity to deal with it. The problem of cyber crime will remain and additional resources will need to be diverted to help the police force cope with the abundance of work.

All of this illustrates an overriding point: cyber crime cannot be dealt with, at least not exclusively, by the police. While the work of the police may be of use in dealing with cyber crimes, more often than not it is too late by the time the report has reached the force.

To deal with the heart of the problem of fraud, it must be understood that cultural and behavioural change in general must be pushed. Educating about the particular dangers of today's digital technology and developing new behaviours in using that technology would help foster more healthy and secure relationships with the devices that many now depend on.

If we do not act fast in fostering healthier attitudes and improve the safety of modern technologies, cyber crime could get worse.

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