Cisco has partnered with UK Police to provide cyber security training to over 120,000 police officers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Thanks to the partnership, police forces across the UK are aiming to increase the understanding of cyber crime and cyber threats among police officers of all ranks and also to make them learn about how to defend networks against cyber attacks and improve their personal cyber hygiene standards.
Cyber hygiene practised by police officers a concern
Last year, The PEEL: Police legitimacy 2016 report revealed that almost half of the police forces in the UK were unable to audit or monitor use of all of the forces’ IT systems and this had impacted the forces' ability to spot officers or staff who were accessing force systems to identify vulnerable victims.
A Freedom of Information request filed by security firm Huntsman Security also revealed that between January 1st 2016 and April 10th 2017, there were as many as 779 instances of UK police personnel misusing sensitive and internal data. As many as 603 cases of potential misuse of data were identified by the report in 2016 alone.
"These statistics underline just how complicated data protection really is. Regardless of whether they are a police force or a pension fund, all organisations need to make sure that their data is being stored and used correctly by all personnel. Critically, they need to be able to continuously monitor to ensure that this is the case," said Peter Woollacott, CEO, Huntsman Security.
According to Andy Beet, National Police Chiefs’ Council, Data Communications Group – Futures Lead, the new initiative by Cisco to provide cyber security training to over 120,000 police officers across the UK would allow police forces to access training designed to raise awareness and increase their understanding of cybercrime and cyber threats, while also gaining insights into the procedures used to defend networks.
"It’s important for all police officers to understand cybersecurity as fully as possible; by doing so they can develop their knowledge in this increasingly important area, improving security in both their professional and personal lives," he added.
"The UK is one of the world’s most digitally active nations, and with that comes ever-increasing opportunity for cyber criminals to exploit individuals and organisations. We’re extremely proud to be working with the Police in their efforts to help make the UK a safer place to be online. Through the Cisco Networking Academy, our ambition is to help ensure that people around the world have the digital skills they need to be successful in any profession," said Scot Gardner, Chief Executive, Cisco UK.
Commenting on the new initiative, Stephen Burke, founder & CEO at Cyber Risk Aware, said that this is a great move from the police force by making security awareness a priority. This emphasises the fact that any institution, no matter how big they are and no matter how sophisticated their technical defence are, still need to help staff and make them become aware of the cyber dangers they face as that’s how actors are going to breach defences.
"Cyber criminals target people not systems and only by thinking like your adversary can you defend against their methods. It goes without saying that technical defences are necessary requirements, but this coupled with people becoming more cyber aware, is a defence that can work effectively against cybercrime.
"By having a cyber risk aware police force, they can better assist the public around responding to a cyber incident or running community courses before an incident occurs," he added.
More funding and manpower needed to fight cyber crime
In its annual budget for the year 2018-1019, the UK government also promised to spend a total of £50 million to help law enforcement authorities improve their cyber capabilities and to fight cyber crime.
"The world of cyber is fast developing and we need a fast-developing response to match, one that recognises that it is the responsibility of everyone in the UK to fight the evolving threat. The £50m of funding will mean that cyber-crimes are investigated thoroughly and police can support local businesses and local victims, providing the advice and care they need. Because whilst criminals plot and hide behind their screens, their actions have real-life consequences for their victims," said Home Secretary Amber Rudd in April.
Last year, research by independent think-tank Reform revealed that while the UK's police forces were in need of at least 12,000 volunteers from the civil society to fight the growing menace of cyber crimes, only 40 out of 13,500 volunteers working for the UK Police were cyber security experts.
"The whole workforce requires better equipment, a better understanding of digital demand and crime-fighting techniques, and new (less-hierarchical) working patterns. Police forces should make better use of secondments, and introduce on-demand cyber-volunteer units to help fight the most sophisticated crime, such as cyber-attacks," the firm said.