HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC’s) cyber crime team was set up in order to protect the revenue from tax fraud attempted by cyber criminals who target HMRC’s repayment systems through a number of complex and ‘sophisticated’ ways.
The cyber crime team will protect UK taxpayers and HMRC’s interests by developing the Revenue’s existing cyber counter-fraud operations that are already in place. The new cyber crime team will also work on existing investigations taken out by HMRC’s cyber counter-fraud unit and is a crucial element of HMRC’s Cyber Crime and Security Strategy.
HMRC has employed a team of technical experts, analysts and investigators to make up the new cyber team and will target organised criminal cyber tax fraud by utilising technology that is funded by the National Cyber Security Programme; a programme which the Government committed to spend £650m over four years, announced in late 2010.
HMRC’s National Cyber Security Programme aims to educate the public on cyber threats and to create a single point of contact for the public and UK businesses to report cyber crime.
In September 2011 HMRC announced that scam ‘phishing’ emails had raised by 300% in the past year and that 24,000 phishing emails had been sent out in August 2011 alone.
This announcement followed an email scam which was sent out to thousands of UK taxpayers, which saw cyber fraudsters posing as HMRC and stating that the recipient was due a tax rebate.
The hoax emails included links to a replica HMRC website and asked recipients to enter their credit/debit card or bank account details to receive a ‘fake’ tax repayment. Those who entered their bank details on the hoax site were at risk of being hoodwinked by cyber criminals who could potentially sell given bank details to criminal gangs who would empty the whole contents of their bank account.
HMRC are in high hopes that the new cyber crime team will detect potential threats through advanced specialist forensic tools that will hopefully exploit intelligence.
Cyber team experts will provide HMRC criminal investigators with technical advice and guide HMRC on how to keep operational and technical procedures secure.
The Exchequer Secretary, David Guake, said:
“As more and more of HMRC’s systems move online, cyber criminals will look to exploit any opportunity to attack the repayment system. HMRC is getting ahead of the curve – taking forward what it is already doing in a better way.
“In last year alone, customers reported over 200k bogus emails purporting to come from HMRC and, as a results, HMRC shut down close to 1,000 bogus websites.”
HMRC’s new cyber crime team is another result of the Government’s £917bn funding to target tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax fraud, given in the spending review from 2010/2011, combined with the £650m funding for the National Crime and Security Strategy.
Funding will also be used by HMRC to exercise new technology that will put a stop to criminal cyber fraud in action of the event.
The Minister for Cyber Security at HMRC, Francis Maude, said:
“The Cyber Security Strategy set out the Government’s commitment to build a more trusted and resilient digital environment and protect the public from online fraud as we move more services online.
“This new unit will play a vital role in tackling online organised tax fraud and we have committed National Cyber Security Programme funding to it to ensure we are better prepared to deal with cyber threats and are better able to protect the public and businesses online.”
HMRC’s counter fraud activity already in place, that the new cyber crime team will be working to improve include:
Kevin Kinsella, of KinsellaTax, said:
“This is the future. Every government is petrified of cyber crime. Frankly, the sooner HMRC get on top of it the better because if this gets out of control life will be hell.”
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