Cyber Crime Report Shows There Are Virtually No Cops to Call On

Cybercrime is increasingly a major problem in modern society and yet there isn't a sufficient response from policymakers when it comes to providing law enforcement in cyberspace. When you’ve been hacked, robbed or subjected to any form of criminal behavior online, who do you call? Calling 911 won’t be helpful in most cases because they and most federal agencies don’t have the capacity to resolve your cybercrime problems.

Based on a study of recent trends, cybercrime has become a problem for average citizens. A review of RSA’s 2011 Cybercrime Trends Report demonstrates that the crime rates are high, rising and damaging to the global economy and that there is a competitive dark market for malicious software aimed at harming average citizens for the gain of a few cyber-criminals.

According to Symantec’s 2011 Cybercrime Report, “Cybercrime is bigger than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion) and approaching the value of all global drug trafficking ($411 billion).”

The global market is being bombarded with an array of viruses, malicious software and criminal schemes. The most basic ones consist of trojan horse programs, worm programs, botnet exploitations, phishing, and social engineering.

Symantec’s report stated that 69% of the people surveyed in 2010 said they were a victim of a cybercrime. Some 75% of millennial responders (who are between the ages of 18 to 31) said they were often the victims of cybercrime. Adults in the developing world are more likely to be the victim of a cybercrime than an adult in the developed world by a ratio of 80% to 64%.

In short, cybercrime is a global problem with real and serious consequences and presents a pressing conundrum for policymakers around the world.

What have policymakers done to make cyberspace safer for the average citizen? The FBI, and Departments of Homeland Security and Defense are all taking active measures to secure U.S. networks in their respective domains of operation and legal prerogative. But if one wants to report a cybercrime in the U.S., the FBI has set up a task force to handle all reports of cybercrime with the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

The trouble is that most local law enforcement institutions do not have the resources or capacity to respond to reports of cybercrime. Though the FBI website shows that many cyber criminals are brought to justice this may be misleading. Many cyber criminals are not brought to justice due to the high anonymity allowed by cyberspace by its nature and the skills of the cyber criminals themselves.

The cyber security skills of the FBI are weak due to lack of personnel and training according to a Justice Department study.

There has been significant progress on the law enforcement side. The recent arrest of Jeffrey Parson, a high school senior from Minnesota accused of causing damage through spreading a variant of the Blaster Worm, was a “rare victory” in cyber policing. It was “rare” because the original creators of Blaster Worm and many other perpetrators of cybercrime have yet to be caught and are not likely to be caught anytime soon.

If the local and federal government can't be relied upon to fill the cyber security needs of the average citizen, who should one call when there's a cybercrime? Private cyber security companies. These companies have the resources for your everyday personal and business cyber sescurity needs.

Cyber law enforcement has a long way to go before it can say that it’s fighting cybercrime effectively. What does this mean? It means that cyber security for average citizens is largely dependent on the services of private firms — including Symantec, RSA, McAfee, Verisign and others.

Photo Credit: urlesque

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Dillon Zhou

Dillon currently works as a Foreign Teacher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. He graduated from International Relations Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. He previously worked at the Cyber Conflict Studies Association in Vienna, VA as a research assistant. He has also worked at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania and JFK Library's Declassification Unit. His primary areas of interests are in US-China Relations and US Cyber Security Policy. He is proficient in speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese.

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