Located at the epicenter of London’s financial district, the City of London Police are jurisdictionally unique and operate separately from the much more high profile Metropolitan Police (the ‘Met’) which oversees the greater London area. Although it is a tiny district of just over one square mile, the City of London includes London’s famed financial district — with its police force on the frontlines of the war against increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals.
The capital has seen a recent increase in cyber crimes, and just last month London Police seized bitcoin worth half a million pounds from a London computer hacker who had launched phishing attacks on major British firms like Sainsbury’s, Asda and the British Cardiovascular Society, and sold the stolen information on the darkweb.
Given this growing threat, the City of London Police has established a new training programme to help officers understand the world of cryptocurrency. This is a first of its kind initiative in the UK, and was launched in response to the concerns of rank and file police officers, who thought the lack of training in the crypto field left them unaware of the opportunities provided to criminals by the technology.
The one day course, called Cryptocurrencies for Investigators, will train fraud investigators in how to deal with cryptocurrency, and be taught by the force’s Economic Crime Academy (ECA).
“In recent years the cryptocurrency market has grown considerably, with more and more people using it and investing their money,” says Mike Betts, head of skills and development at the ECA. “However, this surge in popularity has also given rise to more fraud in this area, with criminals identifying cryptocurrencies as a new way to defraud people and steal their money, and also launder money.”
WIth the pilot course complete, another is scheduled for August, and it is hoped that the course will then be rolled out nationally in the Fall.
Leading the way in London
As the National Lead Force for Fraud, The City of London Police has the responsibility to share best practices on tackling fraud with other forces around the UK. This is achieved through the ECA, which continues to evolve in response to the shifting financial landscape: “The Economic Crime Academy continues to develop national and international courses in response to emerging threats and this new course will provide training to counter the growing risks that cryptocurrencies pose,” Betts says.
As stated on its website, The Economic Crime Academy educate not only the police force, but also public sector bodies and private companies—organisations that have in the past been educated by big companies in the space, like Coinbase, who have helped various US Federal agencies get better training in handling and monitoring crypto-crimes.
State-of-the-art cyber court
Further to expanding its capacity to deliver ‘digital justice’, The City of London Corporation has also stated its intention to develop a new “cyber court” specifically designed to tackle cybercrime, fraud, and economic crime,
“This state-of-the-art court is a further message to the world that Britain both prizes business and stands ready to deal with the changing nature of 21st-century crime.” said Lord Chancellor David Gauke at the launch.
This comes as part of a £1 billion courts modernisation programme by the Ministry of Justice, which has been welcomed by cyber fraud and cryptocurrency experts like asset recovery expert Jennifer Craven, whose firm Pinsent Masons specialises in litigation surrounding foreign and domestic commercial frauds.
“Its launch is no doubt a response to the sheer scale of cyber fraud and the huge cost of it to UK businesses who continually suffer losses at the hands of cyber-attacks such as hacking, business email compromise and theft of crypto-currencies,” she says.
With Brexit on the horizon, these developments will help London remain at the global epicentre of a legal and financial world where cryptocurrency is a significant factor.
Further afield, law enforcement agencies and public prosecutors met with crypto experts in The Hague recently to discuss how legitimate use of cryptocurrency can be encouraged, amid abuse by hackers, and international drug dealers. Figures released from U.S. cyber-security company CipherTrace indicate that cryptocurrency exchange theft has increased threefold since 2017, making it one of fastest growing crimes ever.