The Scottish Police Authority are to invest £1.5 million in establishing a new cybercrime hub to service the East of Scotland.
The new state of the art hub, to be set up in Edinburgh, will help Police Scotland respond to a huge rise in the demand for digital forensic services to support cyber investigations and also help to protect the country's computer infrastructure from cyber attacks.
Since the inception of Police Scotland just over two years ago, there has been a 47% increase in the demand for digital forensic examinations. The amount of memory in devices submitted for examination doubles approximately every two years and has placed a significant demand on police resources which requires ever increasing server space to cope with the data demands of a modern society.
The new unit will bring all existing digital forensic resources in the area together and provide staff with the latest equipment to perform their roles more efficiently and effectively, replacing existing units in Glenrothes, Falkirk and Edinburgh which were developed by legacy forces.
This investment will also allow for the rationalisation of existing resources and freeing up of police estate that will see significant savings.
Vic Emery, Chair of the SPA said: “The SPA and Police Scotland are on a journey of longer-term reform and transformation of policing. That’s why we need to strike a balance between investing in the immediate needs of the service, and investing for the long-term.
“Investing in a single cybercrime facility creating equity of access to specialist support and national capacity is an important step in that journey as we seek to future proof policing for the decades ahead."
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "Very few investigations nowadays do not have a digital aspect to them and these include online child sexual exploitation, counter terrorism and online radicalisation. Officers also support investigations into serious and organised crime, serious sexual offences, cyber bullying, extortion and fraud.
"Cybercrime is classed as a Tier 1 threat by the UK government, along with International terrorism, military crisis and major natural disasters, so the ability of Police Scotland to respond to such attacks is vital.
"The new hub will become a centre of excellence and will allow for more effective integration with our key partners in academia and business; only through effective partnership working with these groups can Scotland hope to protect against the cyber threat. This partnership working has the potential to turn the cyber threat into a significant opportunity to grow an industry sector that can be of major benefit to the Scottish economy."
The development will be overseen by Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson, who said: "The growing digital economy has seen the public adopt a vast array of personal devices including PC’s, tablets, mobile phones, gaming consoles, Sat Nav’s etc. With the ever increasing sophistication of these devices, we need to be able to effectively examine them when it is suspected they have been used in criminal activity.
"The investigation and prevention of online Child Sexual Exploitation is one of the highest priorities for Police Scotland, and we have been at the forefront of the use of new proactive technologies to identify those individuals who represent a threat to our children.
"As a consequence, two-thirds of the work of our digital forensic units involve investigations into Indecent Images of Children. The ability to process cases more efficiently with new upgraded technical equipment means that offenders will be brought to justice more quickly.
"Police Scotland has recognised the increasing dependence that our people and business have on the internet and have developed the SAFER VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES strategy to keep them as safe in the virtual world as they are in the physical world. This strategy is underpinned by the foundation of effective digital investigations and the East cyberhub will significantly enhance this capacity.
"In addition, the Scottish Government has recognised the importance of a digital future for the Scottish economy and is in the process of developing a cyber resilience strategy to maximise the benefits to the Scottish economy. The cyber response capability of Police Scotland is a fundamental foundation of this strategy."