Over the years, many police officers have been educated at Wilfrid Laurier University. Today, our online Bachelor of Arts in Policing program is recognized as one of the best programs for active law enforcement professionals looking to upgrade their skills. Over the next few months on the Laurier blog, we’ll be looking at major trends and challenges in Canadian law enforcement, starting with cybercrime.
What is Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is illegal activity that takes advantage of the internet and computer technology. INTERPOL further divides the types of cybercrime between advanced cybercrime (or high-tech crime), which involves computer-to-computer attacks on hardware and software, and cyber-enabled crime, which refers to traditional crimes like theft and harassment that take place online. Cybercrime in Canada continues to pose unique challenges for law enforcement due to the anonymity, and global accessibility of the internet. Public Safety Canada summarizes the difficulty:
"There is no simple way to detect, identify and recover from attackers who cannot be seen or heard, who leave no physical evidence behind them, and who hide their tracks through a complex web of comprismised computers."
The only way for Canadian police departments and security agencies to crack cybercrime cases is to deploy at least as much technical know-how as the perpetrators have. Officers working in cybercrime - must continually upgrade their knowledge base.
Types of Cybercrime
Every technological advance brings with it new opportunities for criminals to exploit. Some types of cybercrime include:
- Identity theft: From viruses to phishing software, there are innumerable schemes designed to compromise users’ personal information and gain control of online banking, email, social media accounts, and more. Cybersecurity is a concern for everyone, and the rise of cyberterrorism has caused fear and anxiety in the Canadian population. Once a criminal is in control of your online identity, it can take years to undo the damage.
- ATM & wire fraud: The classic “Nigerian Scam” and other similar swindles are familiar to many Canadians. Users of dating sites are particularly vulnerable to con artists, who craft elaborate and convincing stories to trick their victims into surrendering their trust. The endgame typically involves convincing the target to wire increasingly large sums of cash. There are many sad stories of people losing their savings after forming a relationship with someone who turns out to be nothing more than a skilled impersonator. These cases are particularly dangerous because the fraudsters are usually based in foreign countries, making it virtually impossible for domestic authorities to prosecute them.
- Cyber-bullying and doxxing: The open nature and anonymity of the internet makes it relatively easy for malicious people to subject others to sustained harassment, sometimes with fatal consequences. Sometimes victims have also been “doxxed,” a tactic in which potentially compromising personal information such as physical addresses, phone numbers, and passwords is published online.
- File sharing and piracy: Digital media is easily shared online through peer-to-peer and BitTorrent protocols, which has had a profound effect on publishing and intellectual property rights. The issue has escalated in recent years, as in the case of HBO’s servers being hacked, resulting in episodes of its flagship show Game of Thrones being leaked to the internet early.
- Child pornography: Child pornography is without doubt the most viscerally offensive type of cybercrime, and it is included in the text of any legislation which seeks to broaden the powers of law enforcement to surveil civilians. Due to the heinous nature of the crime, offenders are particularly careful to cloak their activity; it is therefore difficult to ascertain how widespread child pornography production and distribution truly is.
The Future of Cybercrime
The internet is becoming increasingly interwoven into our “offline” lives. By increasingly automating more of our physical surroundings, including in our infrastructure via new Smart City initiatives, we make it easier for creative criminals to find new ways to exploit our vulnerabilities. Become part of the fight against cybercrime by studying an online Honours BA in Policing program. While exploring its legal, social, and technical issues within a globalized context, emerging legal responses to cybercrime will be discussed with reference to challenges that face law enforcement.