Computer Crime Research Center


Cybercrime 'escalating': police

Date: May 23, 2008
By: Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald

Cybercrime is fast becoming the top crime in the country, a nationwide survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of Police Boards has found.

The average citizen is now more likely to be a victim of crime through the Internet than on the street or in their home, Ian Wilms revealed at the unveiling of the survey at the University of Calgary's Rozsa Centre on Wednesday.

"This crime isn't going away. It's actually escalating in size. The repercussions are huge if we don't start focusing on this as a major priority of society. We can't afford to let the Internet become a no-man's land," said Wilms, chairman of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. "The number of officers in that area are far too understaffed and don't have the proper equipment to properly go after them."

The survey, completed last January by Deloitte LLP, found that nearly half of the respondents had been victims of cybercrime, and 70 per cent said they did not report the crime. Almost everyone surveyed -- 95 per cent -- thought they were being targeted by cybercrime.

Cybercrime -- things such as identity theft, computer viruses, online harassment, and child luring and pornography -- is big business.

Electronic commerce is forecast to be a $75-billion industry this year and is ripe for the picking by computer-savvy criminals around the globe, according to the survey.

Identity theft is costing $2 billion annually in Canada, Wilms said, calling cybercrime an invisible threat with real impacts.

The report also points to the need for a central mechanism for mandatory reporting of cybercrimes to start gauging the damage to Canada's economy.

Police and other law enforcement agencies need to co-ordinate their efforts fighting a new type of criminal, he said. "The pool of victims grows larger every day while the pool of perpetrators also gets larger, younger and more sophisticated."

Cybercrime is fast becoming a bigger threat than the organized drug trade in North America.

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

"It's a battle that needs to be more effectively addressed. It's a growing industry and I think it's going to take a different approach right across Canada to address it. 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," he said.

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

Nine officers are currently dedicated to Calgary's technological crimes unit.

"There's no doubt that as an investigative unit, our investigators are overwhelmed with the request to assist in investigations," said Hanson.

With cyber criminals passing information with lightning speed around the globe, the problem is much greater than people realize, said Tom Keenan, a University of Calgary professor of computer science.

"The good news is we're getting out awareness 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."

The survey also calls for changes to existing legislation for lawful access, to make spamming an offence, and to require mandatory reporting for child pornography. Prevention and awareness programs to be introduced into schools to educate children on the perils of cybercrimes.

The report also recommends the creation of a dedicated centre where police, government and private sector partners can co-ordinate the fight against cybercrime.

Wilms has been the driving force behind the creation of CyberPol, an agency that would bring together investigators combating computer crimes such as Internet fraud and online child pornography. A business plan was submitted last February in hopes of attaining government funding.

The child pornography industry is estimated to cost $2.6 billion a year, and it's showing no signs of slowing down.

"I think no matter how much we talk about going after the perpetrators, the best we can do is preventing people from becoming victims," said Hanson.

"You've got to be aware of what the risks are and you've got to educate your kids and you've got to be educated yourself and do everything you can to prevent your children from being victimized."

Add comment  Email to a Friend

Copyright © 2001-2013 Computer Crime Research Center
CCRC logo