3 strategies to mitigate cybercrime
With the right approach, officers can use tools they already have to track, catch online criminals
By Tiffany Goddard
When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, the FBI warned of a rising wave of cybercrime, but that only gave a taste of what was to come. The ensuing months saw a rise in ransomware and increased activity on the darknet, along with a spike in identity theft incidents.
These factors have created challenges for state and local police departments that are increasingly faced with budget cuts and hiring freezes. Law enforcement agencies need a means to fight cybercrime in a highly effective – yet also very efficient – manner. This will require them to leverage cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), that can be cost-effectively implemented and will allow them to gain an upper hand on cybercriminals.
Fortunately, agencies and local police departments already have at their disposal many of the tools they need. Facial recognition, video surveillance and search technologies can all be deployed to mitigate the risk of online crime. But proper and effective use of these tools requires the creation of cyber defense plans that allow departments to leverage innovative technologies to analyze data and detect, deter and apprehend cybercriminals.
Let’s take a look at three strategies law enforcement agencies must employ in their fight against cybercrime.
1. Develop a cyber defense plan
Agencies should begin by assessing areas of urgent need. Cryptocurrency, account hijacking, data theft, or cyber terrorism are all areas where criminal activity appears to be on the rise. Prioritizing what’s most important can help agencies develop a plan and determine what tools they need to address those concerns.
Agencies should then take inventory of the technologies they currently use and look for ways to maximize their effectiveness. Questions that should be asked include:
- Are we gaining true actionable information from our surveillance and recognition tools?
- How are we processing that information?
- Are the tools we have at our disposal powerful enough to meet our needs?
- Are they easy to use? Or do we need something more intuitive, so our officers spend less time using the software and more time tracking down suspects?
As always, the cost will need to be evaluated but should be considered against the overall costs agencies face when investigating cybercrimes, in terms of both dollars per year and thousands of hours in productivity. Agencies should weigh these costs when considering implementing new technologies, particularly those that will ultimately introduce significant efficiencies. The money they typically spend on investigations could be applied to procuring new solutions that will make those investigations less time-consuming and resource-intensive.
2. Leverage intelligence tools to shine a light on the darknet
While the darknet has long been a haven for bad actors, the problem intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. More systems and people began turning to online services, which led to more data being put at risk. In response, the number of hackers engaged in cryptocurrency scams rose sharply; a report from the spring of 2020 suggested that in the first few months of the year criminals captured $1.4 billion from cryptocurrency crimes.
To combat these scams, agencies must be able to trace cryptocurrency on the darknet and quickly identify instances in which data may have been compromised. This involves continuously and automatically monitoring and indexing darknet intelligence data to spot potentially criminal activity, including fraud and cyber espionage.
Police should then be able to trace these anomalies back to the beginning of the incident. Having access to data that allows officers to precisely identify who began a particular transaction, where the money from that transaction went, what it was used for, and more is essential. Officers can then take that data and use it to investigate the incident and mitigate the damage.
3. Recruit AI for better insights and faster resolutions
AI is an area where many law enforcement agencies have been ahead of the curve. It’s tough to find a police department that does not already have some form of facial recognition or image-enhancement technologies. That’s good news; it means agencies have already invested in many of the tools they need to curb cybercrime. There may be little need to make additional large-scale investments.
Still, law enforcement agencies must be able to take advantage of the many sources of data available to them. Cell phones, tablets, GPS, wireless communication networks and other access points contain a wealth of information. The data emanating from these connections can be collected, analyzed and turned into actionable intelligence that can profoundly impact investigations.
By first collecting the data, and then using AI-driven forensic software to analyze it, police officers can make use of their digital evidence faster than ever before. The software can identify patterns in very complex data sets and provide recommendations on how to proceed in investigations.
Embracing continuous improvement in law enforcement
We are at the very forefront of the technologies referenced above. In the future, the tools law enforcement agencies use to monitor the darknet and analyze data will continue to improve. They’ll be more accurate and even easier to use. As AI and machine-learning technologies evolve, they’ll be able to offer more precise insights and recommendations, faster.
However, agencies will need to be careful how they use this information. Privacy issues are and will remain a concern. Departments will need to validate these technologies before using them and be as transparent as possible with citizens about how they use the data without, of course, revealing their “secret sauce” to potential bad actors.
As intelligent as these tools become, it must be emphasized that none of this will make law enforcement officers obsolete. Far from it. Technology is merely a means to an end to help officers do their jobs better and more efficiently. Police officers will always be needed to make sense of the information provided to them and use it to protect citizens.
Read next: What cops need to know about crime, cryptocurrencies and the dark web
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About the author
Tiffany Goddard is the sales director for three solutions sets at Carahsoft, leading the Citizen Engagement, Law Enforcement and Geospatial Information Solutions teams. In this role, she oversees the sales and marketing activities for robust portfolios of products from Axon, Chainalysis, Equifax, Granicus, Hootsuite, LinkedIn and New Relic, and Trimble among many others.