Cybercrime: a growing concern

In light of recent cybercrime incidents in Prince George and within the province, The District of Fort St. James.

  • Wed Oct 12th, 2016 5:00pm
  • News

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

In light of recent cybercrime incidents in Prince George and within the province, The District of Fort St. James urges everyone to take precaution when on-line or on the phone.

Due to the growing number of cybercrime incidents, the RCMP has issued a report on cybercrime. Here are few details:

Cybercrime: an overview of incidents and issues in Canada is the RCMP’s first report on cybercrime, and focuses on aspects of the cybercrime environment that affect Canada’s public organizations, businesses and citizens in real and harmful ways.

Cybercrime covers a broad range of criminal offences where the Internet and information technologies are used to carry out illegal activities. It describes select crimes in Canada’s digital landscape to show the rising technical complexity, sophistication and expansion of cybercrime. While difficult to measure, these crimes show no sign of slowing in Canada.

The RCMP breaks cybercrime into two categories:

  • technology-as-target – criminal offences targeting computers and other information technologies, such as those involving the unauthorized use of computers or mischief in relation to data, and;
  • technology-as-instrument – criminal offences where the Internet and information technologies are instrumental in the commission of a crime, such as those involving fraud, identity theft, intellectual property infringements, money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, organized crime activities, child sexual exploitation or cyber bullying.

These categories are examined in this report through examples and law enforcement case studies involving recent cybercrime threats. The report concludes with three key observations:

  • Technology creates new opportunities for criminals. Online markets and Internet-facing devices provide the same opportunities and benefits for serious and organized criminal networks as they do for legitimate businesses.
  • Cybercrime is expanding. Once considered the domain of criminals with specialized skills, cybercrime activities have expanded to other offenders as the requisite know-how becomes more accessible.
  • Cybercrime requires new ways of policing. The criminal exploitation of new and emerging technologies – such as cloud computing and social media platforms, anonymous online networks and virtual currency schemes – requires new policing measures to keep pace in a digital era.

Cybercrime is difficult to measure and often goes unreported to law enforcement agencies. However, RCMP statistics suggest that cybercrime continues to grow in Canada. In 2012, the RCMP received nearly 4,000 reported incidents of cybercrime: an increase of over 800 reported incidents from 2011. In both years, technology-as-instrument cybercrimes accounted for the majority of reported incidents.

Pure cybercrimes often involve the theft and exchange of personal or financial information, which extends to technology-as-instrument cybercrimes. Other crimes involve the use of the Internet and information technologies in different ways, and take on a new magnitude in cyberspace. The examples and case studies below illustrate the range of technology-as-instrument cybercrime activities.

Links between pure and instrumental cybercrimes are arguably most common in fraud. The Internet has transformed this long standing criminal offence to the extent where ‘mass marketing’ is now linked to many types of fraud. Internet-based mass marketing frauds such as phishing emails, lottery scams, ‘419’ scams and romance scams are used to deceive victims and steal personal identifiers for a variety of financially motivated criminal purposes. These scams easily target large populations across multiple jurisdictions in a far more ubiquitous, anonymous and efficient manner when compared to similar offline crimes. One of these fraud-based cybercrimes is exemplified through ‘ransomware.’

Ransomware scams involve a type of malware that locks a computer and its data content and uses social engineering tactics, such as threats, to coerce victims into paying fees for regained computer access. Recent threats involving ransomware scams are described below.

The criminal exploitation of new and emerging technologies – such as cloud computing and social media platforms, anonymous online networks and virtual currency schemes – requires new policing measures to keep pace in a digital era. Criminal activities in cyberspace are complex and often transnational in character, where potential evidence is transient and spread across multiple jurisdictions. Addressing these challenges requires broad-based domestic and international law enforcement cooperation, engagement with public and private sector organizations, and integrating new technical skills and tools with traditional policing measures.

The RCMP has a broad mandate when it comes to investigating and apprehending criminals in the online world, or otherwise disrupting cybercrime activity. To improve its capabilities in the cyber realm, the RCMP is developing a strategy to better combat cybercrime in concert with its domestic and international partners.