A specialist police unit dedicated to fighting cybercrime and Internet fraud is set to launch next year after the UK government and London's Metropolitan Police Service committed funding to the project.
The Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) - which is set to launch next spring - will provide specialist officer training and coordinate cross-force initiatives to crack down on cybercrime and online offences.
The unit is being funded with £3.5 million from the government along with £3.9 million from London's Metropolitan Police Service which will run it as a national resource over the next three years. The government is also calling on industry to contribute to the initiative.
The PCeU will not overlap with existing organisations such as Serious Organised Crime Agency's e-crime unit. However the division will support the new National Fraud Reporting Centre as well as other agencies to tackle international and organised crime gangs operating on the Internet.
Commenting on the move, Home Office minister, Vernon Coaker, says: "It is important that we stay one step ahead of criminals who increasingly use sophisticated computer networks and the internet to commit and facilitate crime."
Coaker says the unit will "play a vital role in helping police forces across the country improve skills and techniques needed to clamp down on e-crime".
Janet Williams, deputy assistant commissioner, lead for e-crime, Association of Chief Police Officers, adds: "It is our aim to improve the police response to victims of e-crime by developing the capability of the Police Service. We will be coordinating the law enforcement approach to all types of e-crime, and providing a national investigative capability for the most serious e-crime incidents."
According to a YouGov poll earlier this year, nearly half of Brits have experienced online ID fraud or know someone who has, while 78% say they are "worried" about ID theft.
The government has been roundly criticised for its approach to the problem and was slammed by the House of Lords last year for ignoring recommendations for an increase in resources available to the police and criminal justice system to catch and prosecute e-criminals.
The recommendations came after Microsoft and members of the open source community told a House of Lords science and technology committee that police in the UK lack the skills and expertise to deal effectively with cases of Internet crime.