Cyber crooks should get tougher sentences, says PCeU chief

Cyber fraudsters and robbers often receive considerably lighter sentences that their real-world counterparts, says Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, the head of UK’s Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU), and she blames judges for that.

“Sentencing powers are sufficient but it’s the appreciation of the harm these individuals are causing that is lacking,” she shared in an interview for the BBC. “In total some of these cases involve £5m or £6m. People think there are no victims, no-one loses out because individuals get their money back from the banks. But it’s a loss to the UK economy and a gain for that criminal organization.”

Taking PCeU’s recent successes as an example, she complains that the two Ukrainians who admitted to have been the ringleaders of a criminal ring stealing money from online bank accounts and the group of young internet fraudsters running the infamous GhostMarket each received a sentence of less than five years in jail.

“Some of these people have made millions and if it was fraud or robbery they would get eight or 10 years but they get less because it’s cyber crime,” she concludes, obviously agreeing with F-Secure CRO Mikko Hypponen on the fact that sentencing is what often ruins most of the effort that went into the investigation of such crimes.

Given that discrepancy, you would think that old-school fraudsters would be interested in changing their tactics and opt for digital crime, but that definitely didn’t happen. “There is no significant intelligence that old-fashioned ‘blaggers’ have become cyber hackers,” says McMurdie, and explains: “They wouldn’t understand it. Nor have I evidence of old-fashioned gangsters commissioning cyber criminals.”

But, she seems more satisfied with the way the PCeU grew following the latest cash injection from the government of some £30m.

Created back in 2008, the Unit counted initially only 20 or so officers. Now, her team is comprised of 104 of them, and regional e-crimes are due to be established in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the north-west of England in January 2012, making it possible to tackle many more investigations at a time.

Currently, they are especially concentrated on the cyber frauds that spring up in connection of the upcoming Olympics which are to be held in London, such as those concerning the online selling of fake tickets, and on the ongoing investigation into Anonymous and LulzSec hacktivists.

More about

Don't miss