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April 10, 2014

UK police forces woefully unequipped to deal with a cyber-attack

Government body finds only three forces nationwide would have the resources to cope with a large-scale attack.

By Vinod

Only three of the 43 police forces in England and Wales have a comprehensive plan to deal with a large-scale cyber-attack, a new report has found.

Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and West Midlands police forces were the only forces with a sufficient plan in place, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warned.

HMIC’s report, examining how prepared police are for a series of national threats, also found that only 2% of police staff across the 37 forces had been trained on investigating cybercrime.

Inspectors from HMIC said they were, "struck by how incomplete the police service’s understanding of the national threats was" and that more needed to be done "collectively by all forces".

The ability to deal with cyber-threats remains "largely absent" in some forces, HMIC found, and that some senior officers across England and Wales were unaware of what constituted a large-scale cyber-incident.

"The capacity and capability of the police to respond to national threats is stronger in some areas than others – with the police response to the cyber-threat being the least well developed," HMIC’s Stephen Otter said.

The report also found forces were not doing enough when it came to preventing cybercrime and protecting people from the damage it causes, despite the fact it is "fast becoming a dominant method in the perpetration of crime".

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"The police must be able to operate very soon just as well in cyberspace as they do on the street," the report said.

Last year, the government identified five threats as priorities for police to prepare for, one of which was large-scale cyber-attacks, which it said could entail, "a criminal attack on a financial institution to gather data or money" or an "aggregated threat where many people or businesses across the UK are targeted".

It also includes "the response to a failure of technology on which communities depend and which may also be considered a civil emergency".

Last week, it was revealed that 99% of the Metropolitan Police’s computers are still running the outdated Windows XP operating system, despite it now being past its official lifespan, potentially meaning the Met could be at risk of suffering cyberattacks.

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