In-depth

Do British police get cyber security?

Davey Winder listens to telephone conversations between the FBI and the Metropolitan Police, courtesy of Anonymous, and isn't impressed.

The Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) has a vision "to contribute, alongside national and international partners, towards the provision of a safer and more secure cyber environment."

How embarrassed must the powers that be at the PCeU felt after it became clear a conference call between itself and one of its international partners, the FBI, had been hacked? Worse yet, that conference call concerned how to deal with hackers, notably the Anonymous collective which was responsible for hacking the call itself and then making a recording of it available for anyone to listen to via YouTube.

The big question here is how much did the call tell us about what police know about cyber crime? Unfortunately, it hinted at a certain ineptitude inside authorities tasked with stopping hackers like Anonymous.

Such comments don't inspire much confidence that law enforcement is really taking some of this very seriously.

You can pretty much ignore the first five minutes or so of the conversation which seems to be just that, a conversational chat. But from there on we get into the nitty gritty of talking about specific hackers and operations, which is where it gets both interesting and revealing.

When a hacker is mentioned who, amongst other things, claims to be responsible for the Steam hack, the British police officer appears to be totally unaware of what Steam actually is. No big deal you might think. After all, not everyone is a gamer and might not have an interest in one of the biggest multiplayer games distribution channels online. But when that site was widely reported as having been hacked towards the end of last year, you might think it would have registered with the law enforcement chaps tasked with catching the people responsible for such crimes.

Then there is the relatively dismissive attitude towards the hackers being discussed during the conference call. One is described as "another juvenile/wannabe" and "a smack from mum or dad" might have been behind one of the hacker's motives. Another teenage suspect is described as an attention seeking idiot. Such comments don't inspire much confidence that law enforcement is really taking some of this very seriously.

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