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Data breaches are 'my biggest worry as gold commander'

NPCC cyber lead says that policing is having 'to learn on its feet' after series of incidents

Data breaches can be more stressful to deal with by gold commanders than a serious public order call in the middle of the night according to the policing lead for cyber and economic crime

City of London AC Peter O Doherty said:  “As the gold commander for my police force I have to be honest and say that getting a phone call in the middle of the night saying there is a public order situation or a crime in action is a call that no gold commander wants to receive. But I am more worried about a phone call saying we have had a data breach.

“Because the reality is with a public order situation or a crime in action, although extremely serious, the policing response is tried and tested with decades of experience. It is not [with a data breach] and we are having to learn on our feet.”

He said there was a tendency to think that cyber breaches “were a new problem and we have got plenty of time to get it right” but the service cannot afford to think like that anymore.

“The threats towards policing are significant,” he told the Police Digital Summit in Brighton. He said he considered attacks from OCGs and hostile states are the biggest threats facing policing in the 21st Century.

“Complacency makes us vulnerable. Each breach slows us down and more importantly repeatedly chips away at public confidence. As a police service we need to protect our information, our applications and our systems. We can’t use the excuse that this is a new problem.”

He said work was underway to strengthen the policing response and there is now a national strategy in place.

For example, Operation Delta Alpha One is a national programme to provide  cyber trained gold commanders for cyber security incidents on call 24/7.

The panel at the summit were asked if there should be more cyber training for police senior and middle management. Jason Corbishley, chief information and security officer for the Police Digital Service said it couldn’t be a tick box exercise where an officer could say they had attended a course.

He added: “Information asset owners need to understand not just the complexity of their systems but the threats those system face from right across the cyber eco-system. Supply chain, vetting levels what data assets are included in that system and who has got access are all important. We have got to get beyond a paper based data protection sharing agreement.”

He said training should be “continuous’ and built into professional development.

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