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How Police Scotland and its Partners are Tackling Cybercrime

Duncan MacRae


Police Scotland

Police Scotland is working with partners to combat serious organised crime groups, drug trafficking and terrorism.

Cybercrime and a growing range of online threats have radically changed the way police services work to protect the public. 

When launching its 2019-20 action plan, Police Scotland admitted that it must adapt to these changing threats and use the opportunities presented by technology both to improve effectiveness and maximise the amount of time officers spend in local communities.

Police Scotland’s priorities include tackling cyber-related crime, and building capability to address the threat from such crime.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone, Police Scotland, says: “Tackling the harm caused by crime remains central to what we do, and our strategic assessment provides details of criminal threats and trends. Much of the crime we deal with has a cyber element, reflecting how society has evolved. 

“Cyber-related criminality is not confined to cyberattacks on computer systems but is wide-ranging and includes sexual crime, fraud and hate crime. Due to the evolving and complex nature of cybercrime, assessing the level of threat it poses to Scotland’s communities is challenging.”

While the overall level of acquisitive crime remains static, reductions in housebreaking, vehicle crime and theft are balanced by increases in cyber-enabled fraud, again reflecting societal changes. 

Crime is also becoming more complex and, as part of Police Scotland’s action plan, it hopes to enhance its capability to address the cross-cutting threat from cyber-related crime. To do this, it is working with partners to tackle serious organised crime groups, drug trafficking and terrorism. It is hoped that improvements to Police Scotland’s cyber capabilities will boost efforts to address online fraud, sexual crimes and other cybercrime activities.


Effective partnerships could help to build resilience and ensure the awareness of current and emerging threats or risks, as well as helping to improve preparedness. 

Success will mean that the Scottish public is safer as a result of the work of Police Scotland and its partners carry out to reduce the harmful effects of crime and other incidents. Additionally, and perhaps crucially, people considered vulnerable will also be better-supported and protected from harm. Communities, it is hoped, will be more aware of, and better prepared to respond to, current and emerging threats and risks.

As part of its efforts to tackle the growing threat of cybercrime, Police Scotland is working with a range of organisations throughout the country. Two prime examples of organisations Police Scotland has partnered with are ID Cyber Solutions and Young Scot – both have been named as finalists in the ‘Best Collaboration with Police Scotland’ category in this year’s Scottish Cyber Awards.

ID Cyber Solutions

ID Cyber has designed several bespoke courses around the National Cyber Essentials requirement, which is a critical part of the Scottish Cyber Resilience Framework. The training benefits Police officers as part of their standard training with their annual refresher training.

A more detailed bespoke course was designed to benefit officers, especially as part of the Safer Communities units, and the Community Support officers who will now be more confident when dealing with public enquiries. In keeping with Prevent, Protect Policy this course has been accredited as ‘Cyber Essentials Practitioner: Protect & Prevent’ and each officer will be a registered practitioner under the scheme. 

In 2019, a total of 120 Police officers have been trained in the past three months alone. These officers represented different units, from Counter Terrorism, Economic Crime, Safer Communities, NCA and Cyber Crime Units at the Tulliallan Police College by Cary Hendricks.

Out of an original nationwide pool of 28 existing practitioners in 2018, Police Scotland with the guidance of ID Cyber has added an impressive complement of 120 police officers to boost the number of Scottish practitioners. This far exceeds numbers for the rest of the UK. The successful program is currently being considered for various other regions.

In the past 12 months, ID Cyber, in association with Glasgow Caledonian University, certified 126 students that can be used as resources for cyber clinics in association with Prevent and Protect.

ID Cyber has attended at the High Tech Crime Unit and assisted with both specific and general advice on tools and tactics with no commercial interest. ID Cyber also provide specialist one-on-one mentoring to police officers who have undergone, or wish to undergo, training to maintain a very high level of skill. Most of the police students trained by ID Cyber seek guidance on deploying tools on live incidents.

Cary Hendricks, global operations director, ID Cyber Solutions, says: “ID Cyber passionately supports the endeavours of Police Scotland and, to that end, has contributed significant time, which has been both invested and granted free of charge in support of the threat of cyber to the public and the economy within Scotland.

“As a result of collaboration with Police Scotland, a massive impact will be gained on the fight against cybercrime. This will be demonstrated by enlightened police officers educating businesses, following expert training by ID Cyber. Police officers will have gained valuable learning tools and techniques which will dramatically reduce police investigation time.”

Young Scot

In February 2019, Young Scot launched its ‘Digi Know?’ campaign in an effort to engage young people and raise awareness of cyber resilience and opportunities that are available in the field.

So far, the project has supported nearly 200 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become more cyber resilient and achieve an SCQF Level 3 in Internet Safety Awareness. It also provided training for youth workers, parents and carers on how to keep young people safe online. These sessions were hosted by Police Scotland, Youthlink Scotland and Cyber Security Challenge UK.

Digi Know? events provide young people with the essential skills to keep themselves, their friends and families safe and secure – whether using social media or chatting online. It also offers hands-on experience of cybersecurity tasks and provides tasters of what it’s like to work in the cyber industry. The approach involves group work, interactive activities, escape rooms, quizzes, and culminates in an online assessment that results in young people gaining SCQF Level 3 in Internet Safety Awareness.

Reid Aiton, stakeholder communications manager, Young Scot, notes: “In addition to supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Digi Know? campaign is a fun and interactive way for 11- to 26-year-olds to learn cyber safety skills and find out how to stay safe online.” 

Funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Young Scot, it also provides information on the careers on offer in the cyber industry.

Data Protection 2019

One 16-year-old participant says: “I attended the Young Scot Digi Know? in Glasgow. I found it very interesting and it provided me with some very useful information. For example, I had never used any anti-virus software before, and I used to just go on to any website without checking if it was a secure or a safe website. I found that having barriers to learning, the Digi Know? events provided me with a different way of learning as it used games and quizzes to engage me and it taught us these valuable lessons in a fun and active way. 

“Since the events, I have now installed two anti-virus software programmes and I make sure the websites I visit are trustworthy sites. I also learn how to recognise suspicious emails and can recognise if a website is fake or if it has a security lock at the top of the page. I enjoyed the event so much that when I received an invite to join the Digi Know Steering group I thought it would be an interesting opportunity for me and it would give me other life skills such as confidence, but most of all sociability skills. What I mean by this is that before the events I would just sit in my room doing things on my own and now I have joined a group that helps me to understand more about cybersecurity and the ability to socialise, instead of hiding behind a screen. 

“I would highly recommend other young people participate in the Digi Know events as they can help you with cybersecurity skills and it provides you with a certificate. Since attending the events and joining the steering group I have now decided to apply for college as my confidence has grown and I am applying to become a games designer.” 

The Scottish Cyber Awards 2019 will be held on Wednesday 20th of November at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh. Tickets for the award ceremony can be purchased online here.

Duncan MacRae


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