Police Scotland to create ‘cadre of experts’ to beat cyber-crime

Published in Scotsman 13/06/2017

Police Scotland plans to create a “special constabulary” of private sector computer specialists who will be called on to help defeat the growing threat from cyber-crime.

The national force will use a “cadre of experts” to help bolster its reaction to ransomware attacks, such as the one which hit the NHS last month.

Detective Superintendent Willie Cravens, head of Police Scotland’s cyber-crime unit, said there had been 34 ransomware attacks in Scotland in the past year, including 13 on NHS health boards on May 13.

The attack locked computers in hospitals and GP surgeries across the UK, with users sent a demand for a payment of around £230.

A number of organisations around the world were affected, with reports of infections in more than 70 countries.

Mr Cravens admitted his force is unable to match the salaries paid to those currently working in the private sector, but said specialists could be drafted in on an ad hoc basis.

He said: “One of the things we’re looking at is the private sector where they have real expertise on ransomware. There are people who are ready and willing to come and work with us as cyber specialists. We want to develop a cadre of specialists who can work with us when we have a need for them. When the NHS attack happened, if we could have pulled on private sector expertise, I would have done that.”

He added: “It would operate like a special constabulary, people who had to work so many hours a year. They wouldn’t wear the uniform, they wouldn’t go out and police the streets, but they would be there for us if there was an attack.”

Last year the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said the future of policing in Scotland involved fewer uniformed officers and more graduates working in “darkened rooms” to help meet the threat of cyber-crime.

Mr Cravens said a “huge amount” of work was needed to train existing police officers to deal with cyber-enabled crime. But he said his staff would be supplemented by highly paid and highly skilled specialists from the financial or IT sectors.

He added: “Let’s be honest, these people are not going to come and work [full-time] with law enforcement.

“The salaries that are getting paid in the private sector are way beyond anything that we’re going to be able to pay for that level of individual.”