Thanks to the ongoing growth of the internet, cybercrime is – regrettably – always on the rise. It is more prevalent in the modern age and is growing more sophisticated.
Cybercrime covers a lot of bases, as a simple definition. It can refer to online fraud, hacking, and elaborate ID theft. It can also cover online harassment, bullying, and even death threats.
Technology is everywhere. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that – sadly – cybercrime will be rife everywhere there’s a data connection. While it is easy enough to try and keep yourself safe online when generally browsing, playing games, or otherwise, we all need reliable cybercrime responses and protections from state to state.
But how does society respond to cybercrime? What is the role of the police in assessing and making arrests based on digital offenses, and how should we sentence people who commit such crimes? Below, we will look at society’s current approach to cybercrime and where it may be heading.
Cybercrime and policing
Investigating cyber crimes may prove difficult, depending on the nature of an offense being committed or honeytraps being laid out. Thankfully, even with privacy protections, the police still have access to digital trails to help them trace and arrest perpetrators.
In many cases, police departments act when civilians raise alerts to cybercrimes taking place. This may include death threats, cyberstalking, grooming, or otherwise. Police in charge of such investigations will work with complainants to help identify who may be behind such threats, including tracking people through GPS, IP addresses, or even identifying details they may leave behind.
Police enforcement also works hard to prevent cybercrimes across the board. For example, they may set honeytraps to ensnare potential child groomers or monitor certain IP addresses for signs of illegal trading online. Given the extensive black market on the dark web, it has become increasingly easy for police to picket specific individuals in case they access contraband sites.
The police will also work closely with several agencies to bring cybercriminals to justice. For example, they may require the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assistance.
In the event of a successful “sting” or operation, police enforcement may send in SWAT patrols and seek warrants to access the alleged perpetrators’ premises before bringing them in for questioning.
It’s also the role of the police to try and encourage people to stay safe online. This may mean they produce initiatives and schemes to bring into schools or engage parents concerned about their children’s activities while accessing the internet.
If you study to become a police officer (such as via a Laurier bachelor of policing in Canada), you’ll likely cover cybercrime as an early module.
Cybercrime and the law
As the internet has expanded, the need for evolving national and international laws has also been necessary. For example, laws designed to protect children while accessing the internet have quickly swept into view.
This is especially important given how ubiquitous the internet is in everyday life now – many children have access to their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, meaning the risk of falling prey to crime is all the greater than, say, 20 years ago.
However, laws can take a long time to adapt and evolve. For example, it can be extremely detailed in the US to amend the Constitution in any shape or form. Both houses of Congress need to agree in the majority to pass motions. The same applies in the UK and Canada, of course, where there is a need for new legislation to pass through two separate chambers.
Cybercrime evolution has meant that laws must bend in favor of enforcement access. For example, in the UK, then-Prime Minister Theresa May took measures to ensure all internet service providers held onto “internet connection records”. This meant that, effectively, law enforcement could access private internet histories in an attempt to counteract terrorism.
There’s a genuine debate over whether some measures brought in to combat cybercrime infringe on civil liberties. Under the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, the criteria detailed above were met with concern across the UK and beyond.
Therefore, lawmakers need to consider the greater good of the public. Legislators must get ahead of the pack because there is no real way of knowing how technology may look in a decade.
In any case, international law bends to fit the evolution of technology – for the most part. It’s now easier for courts to prosecute individuals for cybercrimes than decades prior, and it’s even possible for territories to extradite individuals if their citizens commit cybercrimes overseas.
How do we protect against cybercrime?
While legislation and police procedures have evolved alongside cybercrime in recent years, there has been an increasing need for our hardware to respond to new threats and attacks. Sadly, having a basic antivirus suite set up is no longer enough to take care of viruses!
Viruses are only one part of a much larger problem. Hackers can manipulate wireless networks and even hold hardware for ransom. For example, the National Health Service in the UK was brought to a standstill by a piece of ransomware called WannaCry, back in 2017. Unpatched software may have been to blame for the ease of devastation.
While simple malware and antiviral protection will do a lot of good for private households, data encryption is still needed. With access to a wireless router, a hacker can hypothetically intercept traffic unless it’s encrypted end-to-end. Apps and programs such as WhatsApp already provide encrypted data transfer by default.
There’s also the need for internet users to measure individual risks. It’s always important to lock devices when not in use and to protect online accounts with strong passwords that are difficult to guess. While fraud is rife – and many passwords get leaked yearly – it is good practice to set passwords based on robust protocols, such as those suggested by browsers such as Google Chrome.
Many people – at home and in the office – are also moving toward using VPNs or virtual private networks. These programs effectively cloak IP addresses, helping to make activity private when accessing the web. Many users access the internet via VPN for dual purposes. They may want to avoid getting hacked and remain confidential from authorities.
Protecting against cybercrime on a commercial scale is all about investment. Businesses are increasingly funding cybersecurity departments to help defend their data from would-be attackers. Should sensitive customer data fall into the wrong hands, for example, it will potentially cause loss of revenue and reputational damage.
Commercial protections against cybercrime may stretch as far as regularly upgrading firewalls and malware protections. Since hacking behavior constantly changes, it makes sense to upgrade office security frequently. Commercial operations will also benefit from hosting data in the cloud and restoring potential information through off-site backups.
What can I do to protect myself from cybercrime?
Ultimately, the best way to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime is to simply stick to activities and websites online that you’re familiar with. Avoid accessing websites without HTTPS protocols, for example, where any data you submit may be at risk of interception.
The same pet’s name and birth year at the end of the sequence won’t cut it anymore! The same pet’s name and birth year at the end of the series won’t cut it anymore! The same pet’s name and birth year at the end of the sequence won’t cut it anymore! Of course, it pays to update your viral and malware protection daily by investing in a program that auto-updates. Again, also ensure that you keep your passwords regularly updated and secure.
Much in the way of cybercrime can involve the theft of sensitive information – whether on a commercial or private scale. Plenty of cloud-based storage options exist, meaning everyone can hold data off-site. There’s also much to be said for backing up your data.
It is worth holding copies of sensitive data on-site or at home in separate drives if you wish. The more documents you have, the better protected and prepared you are if you fall prey to an attack.
It’s also wise to keep updating all software you run. For example, ignoring MacOS or Windows operating system updates may expose your data to hackers through unpatched vulnerabilities. Do also update programs you use daily – even games and non-productivity apps.
Young people should always be careful with who they communicate online. The rise of social apps such as Instagram and TikTok has led many people to share their lives and personalities in full force without many filters. Cybercriminals can easily build profiles and trick unwitting minors into conversations and circumstances they want no part of.
The age of “staying safe in chat rooms” is firmly behind us. The web is social by nature now, which means that anyone you talk to could be a potential threat. While it is undoubtedly unhealthy to avoid social interaction completely, it’s not safe to just assume every stranger on the internet has your back.
Finally – above all – don’t click links or open any messages you don’t feel comfortable with. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably a scam. Phishing, as it’s known, is a form of cybercrime still impacting millions of email users worldwide. Send suspicious messages to spam and leave them well alone.
What more can companies do to protect themselves against cyberattacks?
The key lies in investment. As mentioned, many firms invest heavily in protecting their networks and customer data from potential harvesting. Crime leveled at even small businesses harms customers and their ability to trade long-term – cyber defamation, for example, is a growing concern.
There’s plenty of worth in planning. For example, a small firm may wish to create an incident response plan. This is somewhat like a crisis initiative enacted as a fail-safe in the event of the worst-case scenario.
Think of this like planning for fire safety. Do you have network safety protocols in place? Are your network’s users regularly changing secure passwords? Do you have a data protection officer on-site and cybersecurity experts on hand?
What’s more, where and how do you store your data? Can you easily access data backups in case of loss? Do you have multiple cloud backups ready to go in the event of an attack?
Failure to protect and prevent could lead to serious repercussions for your brand, team, and customers. Investing in security has never been more critical, especially as cybercrime evolves.
Ensure your team knows how to keep their data under lock and key at work. Whether working remotely or in HQ, there are great risks that individual employees should be aware of and regularly protect against.
The future of cybercrime
The unfortunate reality of cybercrime is that as our technologies continue to evolve, so will opportunities for criminal activity. This means technologies such as AI programs, driverless cars, and even wearable tech may fall prey to new crime waves.
Technology’s evolution is fascinating, and the internet has changed the world positively. However, the fight against cybercrime is unlikely ever to let up. However, the fight against cybercrime is unlikely ever to let up. However, the fight against cybercrime is unlikely ever to let up. There’s no reason to be scared about going online, but at the same time, vigilance pays off.
Cybercrime has many different faces and can happen at any time. Stick to websites and brands you know and trust. Don’t click on links in unsolicited DMs and emails. You can rest easy knowing that law enforcement and international courts are doing their best to keep up with the growing threats we all face.
However, that is no reason to get lax about protecting yourself, your family, and your business online. Society is reacting to cybercrime just as quickly as it is evolving, and hopefully, we can tip the balance in the years to come.