So, PCeU.

Bless you, that’s not swine flu is it?
Not a sniff of it – PCeU stands for the Police Central e-Crime Unit.

PCeU is a police unit that co-ordinates the law enforcement of online offences nationwide and leads investigations into the UK’s most serious e-crime incidents, such as those where more than 10,000 people have had their identities stolen online.

So what does all that entail then?
The PCeU works with the 43 police forces in England and Wales to support them in tackling online crime, including helping to set up regional cybercrime units that will provide expertise and tools for local investigations.

It’s also working on protecting the London 2012 Olympic Games from online threats and collating fraud reports from online auction site eBay.

I got ripped off buying a camera the other day. I’ll give them a call.
Probably best not to – they don’t take calls direct from the public.

From the end of this year, that sort of thing will be handled by the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC), which will provide a central phone line and web portal for members of the public and businesses to report all fraud, including e-crime.

The PCeU will share information on e-crime with the NFRC and help the centre collate and pass on reports to the different local forces in England and Wales for further investigation.

All this information sharing’s fine and dandy, but what about chasing actual criminals?
The PCeU has done some of that too. Since launching in spring 2009, it has taken part in a major investigation to target a group of suspects using a computer virus to steal money from customers’ bank accounts. More than 195 UK consumers were victims, at a total cost of £700,000. The Home Office claims that the joint investigation between PCeU and the banks “prevented £20m-worth of harm”.

That’s good then. It sounds like it’s all going swimmingly.
It’s not all been plain sailing, though, with questions over funding rearing their ugly head.

Following the announcement of PCeU’s creation late last year, the Conservatives and business leaders criticised the level of its funding allocated to the unit – £7m over three years, saying it’s not enough to tackle a criminal threat worth billions of pounds.

Even the Association of Chief Police Officer’s lead on e-crime, deputy assistant commissioner Janet Williams, thinks the 30-man unit based within London’s Metropolitan Police Service needs more cash. Needless to say, the government aren’t coughing…

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…up any extra cash.

Well, if they’re a bit short, I’m happy to help out.
Actually you could – the unit is hoping to use IT experts from banks, telecoms operators and retailers to provide expertise to help the unit carry out its investigations.

Joint architect of the PCeU detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie said that PCeU staff are in talks with private sector firms about workers joining the unit on a three month secondment.

So apart from me, who else is helping the UK fight off online baddies?
There are a number of other bodies that are charged with tackling cybercrime of different sorts: for example, the government’s mooted Office of Cyber Security (OCS), which will protect Britain’s IT infrastructure, goes live in September.

There’s also the City of London Police force, which battles online crime as part of its role as the national lead police force for fraud and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) also has a dedicated e-crime unit, which has helped convict 21 people over the past year.

E-crime investigations are also undertaken by the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, which is funded by the payments industry body, UK Payments Administration. The unit investigates credit and debit card fraud using Met and City of London Police officers.

Sounds complicated – how do you know who’s responsible for what?
Good question – the government’s still working that out.

All should theoretically become clear after the government ordered an “urgent review” of e-crime strategy last week, due to be published at the end of this year.

According to a Home Office report released last week the review will see a “refreshed e-crime strategy” that will “provide clarity over the roles and responsibilities of all the departments and bodies responsible for tackling e-crime”.

The strategy will set out plans to set up a public-private sector taskforce to increase information sharing on cybercrime and see the City of London Police begin offering training on tackling e-fraud to “key business sectors”.