We don’t need statistics to tell us that cyber crime is one of the biggest challenges facing modern society. There are various figures that highlight the extent of cyber crime – for instance, the US government estimates put the total cost to the world economy at $250bn to $1trillion annually. Other reports have estimated the cost to the UK economy at £27bn per annum.
Whether you believe these figures or not, the fact of the matter is the cyber crime is the major form of crime. Chances are that you, yourself, or someone you know has been the victim of cyber crime. And whatever the cost to the economy, the emotional and personal impact of being a victim of a crime cannot be easily measured.
Today sees the launch of the National Cyber Crime Unit in the UK – a development aimed at consolidating existing national efforts into a coherent response to those exploiting cyber space for criminal purposes. Such consolidated responses are important as criminals already use the Internet to not only target victims but also plan their activities and conduct their “business”. You may have heard of the “dark web” or the recent news about closure of “silk road” – an online market place used to trade illegal goods and services. These are just examples of how the Internet is exploited by criminals, whether individuals or groups.
So what should be our priorities if we are to tackle this new and growing wave of criminality? In addition to consolidating efforts as is being done by the NCCU, it is also very important to understand how criminal tactics change and evolve. It is well-known that criminals change their tactics to avoid detection by law enforcement – it is even more so in the case of cyber crime as tactics can be adapted more easily, the typology of victims to be targeted can be varied and the crime is not limited to a particular geographical region – effectively, the whole world is accessible given the rise in Internet connectivity for households, rise of online social media and mobile on-the-go access to the Internet.
Instead of playing catch up, we need to be able to understand from where future threats might emerge and develop strategies and technologies to counter those threats. Equally important is to understand the economic models utilised by criminals online and the techniques and tactics used to mask the online footprint of their activities. This cannot be done by law enforcement in isolation.
A further consolidation of effort is needed through partnership with academia and industry – whereby new insights and solutions can support the efforts of law enforcement in tackling cyber crime. This is critical so that the Internet and the various technologies and services it supports are not only safer for us to interact with others and engage in business but also for future generations.
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