Coming down heavily on online illegal trade practices and crime, the Met's Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) has saved the UK economy more than £140 million in the last six months, authorities estimate.

Operational activity targeting online criminals has seen the unit deliver nearly 30 per cent of its £504 million harm reduction target in this initial period alone.

The figure -- clearly more than the projected target for a full year -- relates to the amount of money the country has been prevented from losing through cyber crime, and this has been achieved following a number of successful prosecutions and operations by the unit.

The ACPO National e-Crime Programme (NeCP), which is responsible for delivering the policing response to the Cabinet Office's National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP), was allocated £30 million earlier this year after cyber security was recognised as one of the biggest threats to the UK.

The funding has been supported by the government over a four-year period to assist in the development of the Met's Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), an 85-strong team whose remit is to tackle those responsible for the most serious cyber crime incidents of computer intrusion, distribution of malicious code (malware), denial of service (DDoS) attacks and internet-enabled fraud.

In return for the additional funding, the PCeU was set a target of delivering £504 million of harm reduction during that four-year period; based on a business case which evidenced that for every £1 invested the PCeU would deliver £21 of harm prevention, i.e. £1:21 ratio.

However, PCeU has delivered a £1:35 harm reduction ratio alone in the last six months.

"In the initial six month period the PCeU have delivered in excess of £140 million of financial harm reduction to the UK economy, and we hope to be able to better this result in the future as we expand our national capability," said ACPO eCrime lead for law enforcement DAC, Janet Williams, in a statement.

"This initial result is only a small sample of the current investigations and interventions being conducted and whilst providing an investment to return ratio of £1: 35, the figure alone does not capture the other important benefits gleaned from the learning obtained from targeting the higher echelon of cyber criminals that we then share with our partners," said Detective Superintendent of Police Central e-Crime Unit, Charlie McMurdie.

In the past, the Operation Pagode accounted £84 million worth of harm saved, while for Operation Dynamaphone it was an estimated £5.5 million worth of the harm saved.