UK police to embrace IoT in age of ‘Digital Darwinism’
UK police to embrace IoT in new age of 'Digital Darwinism'

UK police to embrace IoT in age of ‘Digital Darwinism’

A report published today by UK technology association techUK and the Centre for Public Safety explores how police forces can address the challenges and embrace the opportunities associated with the IoT.

The report, Policing and the Internet of Things, provides recommendations on how UK police forces can evolve with the fast-moving world of technology, particularly IoT, to create a digitally skilled police force.

Law enforcement officers in the UK have already begun to embrace emerging technologies, such as drones, for fighting crime. A growing number of officers are also using wearable cameras on the beat these days, while at least one crime scene investigation unit is already working on taking digital forensics from smart devices. However, more work is needed.

New risks, new opportunities

According to the report, with fraud and cyber crime now heading the list of the UK’s top criminal offences, the growth of the IoT and the increasing number of devices connected to the internet means that the way police forces operate needs to change.

“Not only have new risks been created, such as the deployment of ransomware onto devices, but more ‘traditional’ crimes can now be committed online, targeting large numbers of people from almost anywhere in the world,” it says.

Currently, online fraud is the most common crime in the country, but a joint report from the National Crime Agency and the National Cyber Security Center suggests that IoT-related crimes may soon become more frequent.

Meeting the challenge head on

In light of the changing nature of crime, the report recommends six incremental steps that police forces can take to address both the challenges and the opportunities of IoT.

To address the challenges presented by the IoT, they should:

  • Create a new model for partnership with industry and academia for police forces to access the specialist external skills and capabilities needed.
  • Redeploy the Security Index, listing the devices and applications most targeted by criminals.
  • Improve public outreach and a prominent police voice working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and GCHQ, when fighting cyber-crime.

To maximize the opportunities, meanwhile, they should:

  • Improve digital skills across the policing curriculum to give officers greater confidence in using technology.
  • Provide greater resources for public safety app creation, including crime-reporting apps for citizens and crime-monitoring apps built into connected infrastructure.
  • Boost existing digital expertise, by positioning cyber security as a corporate social responsibility – so that employees volunteering as special constables, for example, might be a way for companies to fulfil CSR requirements.

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An age of “Digital Darwinism”

The report has been endorsed by a number of senior police officers, including Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry, chief officer lead on the Digital Investigations and Intelligence Programme for the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Commenting on the report, he said:

“The digital environment presents a number of challenges for public safety and the prevention and detection of crime. Police forces across the country have already adapted locally and there are many pockets of good practice. However, digital challenges can be different to those previously familiar to many in policing.

“Working in new partnerships will help the Police Service discover and respond to threats and opportunities better and, in particular, closer working with industry will be critical. In order to fight crime in the digital age, it is vital that police have a good understanding of market capabilities. It will be important to ensure a regular exchange of ideas is facilitated, for police and industry to work collaboratively in responding to new crime and security issues.

“This report sets out six incremental steps, which will help police forces meet the challenges presented and harness the opportunities available. Beyond this, I hope this report sparks discussion and debate for how we, as the Police Service can rise to the challenges of Digital Darwinism.”

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