PSNI bolsters cyber crime unit as offending increases
The PSNI's cyber crime squad is to be expanded in a bid to tackle the growing number of offences.
Nine officers are to be transferred into the force's Cyber Crime Centre - a 50% rise in manpower.
Around three so-called malware attacks on local businesses and industries are reported to police every week, the PSNI said.
There has also been a big increase in the number of reported sex scam blackmail schemes.
Officers from the centre are further involved in a major investigation into last year's TalkTalk cyber attack, which saw nearly 157,000 customers' details accessed.
Other high-profile crimes include email scams in which victims have lost life savings. Last year Co Down woman Amanda Jackson lost almost £77,000.
Some of the Cyber Crime's Centre's new officers will be trained for specialist roles in Pasadena, California, a thriving technology hub.
PSNI cyber crime lead Detective Superintendent Jonathan Roberts welcomed the extra staff.
"We are expanding because of the exponential growth in cyber- related crime," he said.
"We are a one-stop shop. These officers are dealing with terrorism, indecent images of children, they are examining computers and phones for cases like murders, rapes, kidnaps and fraud.
"Our investigations range from people being bullied and harassed through social media to capturing evidence from people's mobile phones and computers.
"We have webcam blackmails, which have recently generated a lot of publicity. In the last 12-18 months there has been a growth in the reporting of it, but it is something we in the PSNI have been aware of for several years.
"Anyone who has done it and is being blackmailed should have confidence to come forward to police.
"It may be embarrassing for them, but it will be dealt with extremely professionally.
"We also deal with malware attacks, targeting businesses and industry. A number of years ago we wouldn't have seen any of these attacks reported, but now we are seeing on average two to three a week.
"It is a changing crime dynamic. There is a need to have additional officers in to do this work. These officers are doing front line policing. Everything they do in there is about catching people for crime."