Despite the push to increase awareness and fight cyber crime on all fronts, most local law enforcement agencies lack the tools and resources needed to conduct an effective cyber crime investigation.
With a bustling ecosystem comparable to those found within our physical environments, the rapidly growing sector of cyber crime shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. A wide range of criminal activities, including financial and identity theft, attacks aimed at maligning state institutions, and even terrorism, begs the question of the role of law enforcement in cyber crime investigation.
According to the Global State of Security Survey conducted by PwC, a multinational professional services firm, the number of online security related incidents has increased by more than 66% since 2009. The survey estimates that there are more than 117,000 attacks occurring each day across the globe. But is this enough to warrant serious action from the areas in which they occur?
To date, cyber crime is not dealt with in the same manner as conventional acts of crime. Police departments and many other law enforcement agencies are simply not equipped with the tools and resources needed for dealing with them. Modern perpetrators of the law are comparatively more advanced than their predecessors. They carry out attacks from behind computers and laptops, and are arguably more dangerous than random punks on the street. One-off stick-ups and murders are always unfortunate, but malware designed to kill will undoubtedly jeopardize large groups of people.
Cyber crime investigation, which typically involves tracing the identities of attackers using complex binary patterns, is a capability that most local law enforcement agencies do not have. This, along with the lack of additional training needed to forcefully counter online threats, can yield catastrophic outcomes for individuals, companies and entire jurisdictions. Darrel Stephens, the Executive Director of the Major City Chiefs Association, says that police will need to become more involved in cybersecurity measures. He also stressed the need for tools to bring attackers to justice.
To be clear, there is really no such thing as a “cloud” or digital service that exists in the air. Computers and servers are placed in physical locations, and every cyber crime, regardless of its scope, is committed locally. A large number of attacks, however, go unreported and draw little or no attention from local authorities. Hackers have long realized this, and see it as an opportunity that can be easily exploited. Whether their goal is to hacked databases in exchange for sums of money, or orchestrate acts of violence or terror, they do so with the belief that they will escape a cyber crime investigation.
It is imperative, therefore, for local agencies to take decisive and effective action and partake cyber crime investigation where appropriate. Stakes are at an all-time high, and the financial impacts of cyber crime are constantly spiking. The PwC survey revealed that companies reporting financial losses in excess of $20 million have more than doubled. And Juniper Research, a UK-based digital market research firm, projects that the global cost of cyber crime will reach $2 trillion by the year 2019.
As the debate on how to effectively fight cyber crime continues, one fact remains certain: The development of new systems and methodologies which facilitate the restraining of online threats will result in more involvement from law enforcement agencies. A general awareness already exists, but there is still the need for advocacy—particularly among security analysts and experts—to ensure that cyber crime is countered on all fronts.