The fight against crime takes many guises, from regular policing through to the dramatic interpretations of investigation we see on TV every day. One perhaps less well recognised aspect of crime fighting however, comes in the form of preventing cybercrime. The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, or Titan, established in 2009 does, amongst other things, exactly that, through one of its’ 5 teams, the Regional Cyber Crime Unit. Jennie Williams, Cyber Protection Officer at Titan works with businesses and the public to help raise awareness of and help prevent cybercrime. We sat down with Jennie to discuss her work and get her thoughts on the ongoing conflict against cyber criminals.
After working for Merseyside Police’s Hi-Tech Crime Unit as a Technical Officer, giving advice to Police Officers on dealing with cybercrime elements and office management, Jennie joined Titan upon the foundation of the Regional Organised Crime Units as Cyber Protection Officer, citing her work at the HTCU as fundamental experience to prepare her for her new role. Despite being the first to admit to a lack of high-end technical expertise, Jennie’s passion for technology and learning within the field, combined with her experience made her ideal for the job.
When Titan was first formed, the main difficulties Jennie and the team experienced were regarding the organisation’s reputation, or lack thereof, due to its mainly covert nature. This, naturally, made approaching companies in order to court partnerships an arduous and challenging process at first, but despite initial difficulties, this appears to have been overcome, with Jennie reporting an increase of more than double over the past two years alone. Enthused about the benefits Titan are able to offer its partners, Jennie attributes their success in attracting businesses and members of the public to the easily accessible messaging used, delivering advice “in a way that anyone can understand, with easy tips and guidance” so people can start making the changes needed to protect themselves. In a field full of technical jargon and beyond complex technical witchcraft, Titan’s success highlights the ever-present value of effective communication.
Cybercrime comes in an ever changing variety of forms, with nefarious individuals looking for the next method to outsmart their would-be victims. Jennie, as someone who sees these threats on a daily basis was able to offer her insight on what to look out for. Naming ransomware as the biggest threat Titan is currently faced with, Jennie offered her thoughts on the effects of this growing threat – “Businesses and their staff need to understand the implications of an attack, what if the ransom demand is extremely high and the business cannot recover from it?”. Despite this bleak sounding outlook, Jennie outlined the case for a future of hope. Through education on the subject, and with individuals taking ownership of their online activity, “the UK can become a much safer place to trade and socialise online”, she suggested.
The Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership, or CiSP is an industry and government led initiative designed to tackle the cyber threat head on through processes of information sharing and co-operation across a range of bodies. Having been involved in the CiSP for the past two years, Jennie remains convinced that information sharing is one of the best ways to effectively combat the threat of cybercrime. With many users now logging in as part of their daily routine, the advice and news the platform offers is able to reach an ever growing audience propagating cyber security related knowhow en masse. The CiSP now has an impressive 9000+ members from over 3000 organisations, with representatives from over 25 different industrial sectors, all of which provide and consume information on a daily basis. The recent high profile WannaCry attack Jennie cites as an example of the value of the platform; Information was posted on the site in real time for the National Cyber Security Centre to distribute as required.
What then, can the individual or business do to mitigate and reduce the risks posed by cybercrime? Jennie pointed at the Government advice on the topic first, simple easy to digest advice including downloading software updates and maintaining strong password controls, advice available at Cyber Aware, and the NCSC’s 10 steps to Cyber Security, available here. The Cyber Essentials scheme, aimed at addressing basic weaknesses in IT systems and software to prevent the most common attacks can also be downloaded here, and Jennie also suggests businesses check the Cyber Essentials credibility of their supply chain, ensuring the data they hold about your business remains exclusively in the right hands.
Making the UK the safest place it can be for people to trade and socialise online remains at the core of Jennie’s work with Titan, but how can this be achieved? Again, Jennie refers to education and information as key methods of combatting the threat. Also highlighting the role that individuals can play in this process, Jennie says “People need to start being responsible for their own Cyber Security and not just relying on their IT department, or best friend who’s good with computers. This is about us all working together”.