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The UK is a prime destination for cyber criminals to cash out, says former Met e-crime chief

The UK is a prime destination for hackers to spend and launder dirty money, according to Charlie McMurdie, the former head of the Met Police’s cyber crime unit.

During a speech at a Datto cyber security summit in London today, McMurdie said London is particularly attractive for cyber criminals seeking to cash out the proceeds of their crimes.

“If you’re making millions from cyber crime you don’t want to be in the back of beyond, where you can’t spend your lovely cash and bitcoins,” she said. “You want to be in the UK where you can go down to Harrods and Knightsbridge.”

McMurdie, who left the Met in 2013, said the speed at which British banks transfer money is another reason cyber criminals gravitate towards the UK. “If you’re making loads of money, you need to bounce it around the banks, to launder that cash,” she said. “In the UK, it doesn’t take two days to move money from A to B.”

“The only bad side for cyber criminals is our banks are good at recognising these transactions and they’re also pretty hot at working with law enforcement,” she added.

In recent years, the UK has been named the top target for cyber criminals in Europe. While McMurdie said Brits are a prime target for hackers, citing affluence and the prevalence of tech, she cast doubt on the claim.

“We’re more cited on what’s actually happening, how it’s happening, the scale of the problem, perhaps than our European and international counterparts,” McMurdie suggested. “Perhaps our other partners are suffering the same sort of issues, but pushing them under the table, not sharing that information and not reporting it as much.”

Research conducted by a criminologist at Surrey University earlier this year revealed that cyber crime now generates $1.5tn (£1.1tn) annually. By the same estimates, if cyber crime was a country, it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world.