Police lose National High-Tech Crime Unit website

German snaps up the domain of the police's high-tech crime unit

The police have embarrassingly lost control of the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) website.

The NHTCU was folded into the Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCA) a couple of years ago, but sites such as the BBC still routinely link to the former NHTCU website - such as from this story about 'hacker' Gary McKinnon, which was published in July this year.

It appears the police have let the domain registration lapse, and it has now been picked up by an opportunistic German owner, Uwe Matt.

Security firm Sophos, which discovered the lapse, says the Government has been extremely careless. "Letting the domain name go like this demonstrates a sloppiness on the part of the authorities," says senior technology consultant, Graham Cluley.

"My first thought was it could be used for malware," he told PC Pro. "The good news is it appears it's not. There's a domain speculator at work here. There's so many websites linking to this website, it makes the site valuable."

Cluely says it's ironic that the police, which constantly lectures on the dangers of identity theft, appears to have become a victim itself. "The police appears to have lost the identity of its own website," he added.

SOCA remains entirely unrepentant for the lapse. "SOCA is aware that registration of the domain www.nhtcu.org has lapsed and is taking the necessary steps to remind partners and stakeholders that the NHTCU became SOCA e-crime in April 2006, and that they should confirm that web links and other references are amended accordingly," it claims in a statement.

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