North Yorkshire Police (NYP) launched its Cybercrime Unit in April 2015.
The force recognised the need to boost its resources to tackle the threat of this growing type of crime and it was decided a specialist unit would be established, along with training for frontline investigating officers and staff.
NYP was allocated £225,000 from the government to invest in the introduction of this specialist unit, following a successful bid via the Police Innovation Fund.
This investment allowed NYP to put the IT infrastructure in place to support the creation of the Cybercrime Unit (CCU) and also provide the team with a fully equipped office to allow their investigative work to be undertaken.
The CCU consists of three Detective Constables who have received extensive training in cybercrime, including wireless networking, first responder computer forensics, data acquisition and identification of cyber security threats. In addition, the force has seen more than 200 officers and staff receive Mainstream Cybercrime Training, which enables them to conduct open source investigative research and capture evidence of offences for most cyber-enabled crimes.
Since the launch of the CCU ten months ago, more than thirty arrests have been made across the force of suspected paedophiles, for offences relating to the sharing of indecent images of children.
Seven men across the county were charged and received custodial sentences. All seven men also received Sexual Harm Prevention Orders, as did a further two men.
In addition, the CCU have undertaken investigations into “black hat” hackers (individuals with extensive computer knowledge whose purpose is to breach or bypass internet security) and arrested two men for offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. One 19 year old man from Tadcaster received a caution for an offence under s.1 of the Computer Misuse Act (Unauthorised Access to Computer Material), and the other man, also 19, from York is currently on bail pending further enquiries.
Working with departments such as the Serious Crime Teams, officers from the CCU have attended more than twenty search warrants, providing specialist advice and guidance on the seizure of electronic storage media device devices. The CCU officers can also do live on-scene forensic triage examination of computers, tablets, phones and a variety of storage devices.
This means that the investigating officer is able to gain a clear pre-interview indication about the nature and extent of the indecent material, enabling them to prioritise which exhibits are submitted to Digital Forensics for a full forensic examination. This, ultimately, can speed up an investigation and deliver swifter justice for victims.
Significantly, as a result of the work conducted by the CCU, North Yorkshire Police now has the ability to capture live ‘volatile data’ meaning data which would previously have been lost by switching off or powering down of devices. This is now forensically captured and preserved for later examination by Digital Forensics and can often contain extremely useful information such as passwords and currently running processes on the device.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Walker, Head of Cybercrime at North Yorkshire Police, said:
It is this type of pro-active work that is so vital. In addition to the already incredible work of North Yorkshire officers to relentlessly catch those who break the law and threaten to harm others, the Cybercrime Unit is a crucial dedicated resource.
Cybercrime is a real ever increasing threat here in North Yorkshire, and it needs a focussed team of specialist trained officers to assist frontline investigating officers and staff, carry out complex cyber investigations, and be the NYP link with the Regional Cybercrime Unit and other external bodies such as Action Fraud.
The work of the Cybercrime Unit also plays an important role in allowing NYP to be more efficient and effective in preventing and investigating crime. The unit works with other departments across the force to speed up processes and “fast-track” the capturing of evidence. This can reduce investigation time, meaning swifter justice for victims.