As you may have read (for instance, here on the Beeb website), the website of the Serious Organised Crime Agency has been taken offline after a cyber-attack. I’m not certain how it all works, but basically you get so many computers to visit a specific website at once that the website collapses under the strain – a bit like M&S on the first day of the sales. In practical terms, what this means is that when you try to visit the SOCA website, you get an error message. As a SOCA spokesman says: “[Such attacks] are a temporary inconvenience to website visitors but do not pose a security risk. SOCA’s website contains only publicly available information and does not provide access to operational material.”
This is SOCA in a nutshell. As you can probably imagine, I have been an FIU groupie for years. I can still remember the excitement of going to the offices of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (SOCA’s predecessor, for the babies among you) just off the Embankment in London (overlooked, rather wonderfully, by the penthouse to which Jeffrey Archer was bailed during his perjury trial). We had to go through several layers of security, which only made it all the more thrilling for me, to get into the rather drab building with the usual carpet-tiles and damp-stained ceilings. On all of their paperwork, the address was only ever given as “PO Box 8000, London” – indeed, they still use this address. (But outside the offices was a large sign saying “NCIS” – so it was hardly the most secret of locations.) SOCA is now in a new building, but I have quite forgotten where it is. I did visit once, when SOCA was first created, but they do not encourage visitors – particularly AML-fevered ones like me, showing an immoderate interest in SARs and the people who handle them. Embarrassment aside, SOCA needs to get its website back online soon, otherwise how can people read about how to submit SARs? I assume that SAR Online (for SAR submission) is unaffected by the attack….