Computer Crime Research Center


Cyber crime growing fast in Canada: report

Date: May 22, 2008
By: Amy Husser

OTTAWA -- Canadians are more likely to be victims of crime on the Internet than they are on the streets, suggests a new survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of Police Boards.

Cyber crime -- things such as identity theft, computer viruses and online harassment -- is very close to surpassing illicit drugs as the top crime category in North America.

The survey, completed last January by Deloitte LLP, found that nearly half of the 567 respondents had been victims of cyber crime, and 70% said they did not report the crime.

Almost everyone surveyed -- 95% -- thought they were being targeted by cyber criminals.

"If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will scare you," said Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson during a news conference Wednesday.

"It's huge and it's getting worse," said Ian Wilms, chair of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. "You lock your door at night time, but people don't, when online, just take the 30 seconds to update the security patches on their computer."

The report finds that the number of incidents has increased dramatically since 2001.

"The pool of victims grows larger every day while the pool of perpetrators also gets larger, younger and more sophisticated . . . this is a new era for police, fighting a new type of criminal," said Mr. Wilms in a statement.

Staff Sgt. Dick Nyehuis, head of the Calgary Police Electronics Surveillance Unit, says his department has seen a 1,239% increase in seized computers over the past three years.

"We've now seen that there is a need for an online presence so we can monitor website and chat rooms to try and look for and identify people who could be a danger," said Sgt. Nyehuis.

"It's a growing industry and I think it's going to take a different approach right across Canada to address it," said Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson.

"We've known for some time that it's a growing crime threat, locally and nationally and internationally. I think this survey shows that more needs to be done.

"Is it a surprise to us? No. But like anything else our resources need to grow with the magnitude of the problem."

Digital law expert Michael Geist says the numbers seem a little inflated and that could pose a problem for law enforcement.

"It suggests that there is widespread concern about the issue," said Mr. Geist.

"If we're thinking about how we prioritize law enforcement and address these issues, we need to focus on whether there is significant financial harm or whether personal safety or personal privacy is put at risk."

The most common definition of cyber crime is broad -- a criminal offense involving a computer, meaning that major issues such as child pornography and fraud are lumped in the same category as viruses and spam.

Still, Mr. Wilms stressed that action is needed sooner rather than later.

"We can't afford to let the Internet become a no man's land."

Tom Keenan, a University of Calgary professor of computer science said the good news is people are becoming more aware of cybercrime.

"The bad news is we're not getting quite to the point where people take all the right precautions. We're kind of locking the front door but then leaving the back door open."

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