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House of Commons Hansard
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05 September 2016
Volume 614
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7. What recent assessment she has made of trends in the level of cybercrime. [906085]

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As crime falls, we know that it is also changing. The internet and new technology offer criminals new opportunities to commit crimes, such as fraud and cybercrime. We welcome the increased reporting to Action Fraud: such reporting has trebled since it was set up. With new experimental data from the Office for National Statistics, we will be able to better map the trends in cybercrime and, I hope, take steps to combat it.

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On the day Parliament went into recess, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that there had been 5.8 million incidents of cybercrime in the past 12 months, affecting one in 10 of the population. This means that crime has near doubled. Does the Home Secretary agree that the legacy of her predecessor—now the Prime Minister—is one of 20,000 fewer police and soaring crime?

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I do not think that that is much of a point. The reality is that, under the hon. Gentleman’s Government, there was no proper reporting mechanism for fraud. We set up Action Fraud, which has received the massive number of 300,000 referrals. Rather than playing politics with crime, the best advice we can all give our constituents is that GCHQ advises that if people change their passwords regularly and have up-to-date anti-virus, they will cut their vulnerability to cybercrime by 80%.

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I hate to play politics with crime, but this Government have an excellent record on tackling both crime and cybercrime by setting up the National Cyber Crime Unit. I wonder whether the new Minister, whom I warmly welcome to his position, will use his imagination and energy to consider a bespoke career path, at graduate level, for people entering the police force. People tackling cybercrime perhaps need very different skills from those the police have relied on hitherto, before the growth of digital crime.

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Yes, we are working on that. We are working on direct recruitment to ensure that both the police and the National Crime Agency have the skills they need. We have already invested in upskilling members of the NCA, which hosts the National Cyber Crime Unit. It is also very important to make people understand that everybody can play a role in defending against cybercrime, and that if they follow the advice of GCHQ, they will go far.

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Well done.

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14. Not least in the context of the expansion of the Prevent duty, is the Minister currently satisfied with the level of support being given by social media and internet companies to police and other public authorities for tackling online radicalisation, as well as for tackling those who are preparing terrorist acts themselves? [906092]

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Every day the police get good co-operation from many multimedia companies and internet service providers. We would, of course, like to see more, and will keep pressing companies for more because it is very important that we all protect vulnerable people from the effects the internet can have in turning them into radicals and attracting them to terrorism.

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Given the increase in cybercrime, will the new Minister commit to investigating the storage of seized hardware and, specifically, ethical concerns that destruction orders on hardware containing child pornography can be successfully challenged by convicted offenders in court?

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That is a very good point. We must make sure that the data are always there to help convict people of their crimes, and that those data cannot be challenged or put aside. I hope the hon. Lady will therefore support the Investigatory Powers Bill when it returns to this House, because the retention of data is one of the best ways to counter crime.

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For clarity, no one, particularly a child, chooses to be or facilitates being trafficked.

The Minister will know that online child abuse has reached unprecedented levels and is increasing. The Internet Watch Foundation states that there has been a 417% increase in child sexual abuse images since 2013, with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre stating that 50,000 people in the UK downloaded or shared images in 2012. However, children and parents are woefully underprepared when it comes to recognising or preventing abuse and exploitation online, despite the fact that 65% of 12 to 15-year-olds own a smartphone. What does the Minister plan to do to address and prevent online child abuse, other than changing passwords?

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The obvious answer is that we need to continue to educate both parents and children, either in the school setting or at home, to make sure that they operate safely when they surf the net. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Home Office and the National Crime Agency have engaged in making sure that there are guides online for everyone of every age to follow. That is the first step. Certainly, the National Cyber Crime Unit, which I went to visit at the NCA, is responsible for making sure that we catch people whether at home or abroad, through its network of overseas postings, to make sure that we bring people to justice whatever side of the channel they are on.