Online crime worldwide is increasingly displacing conventional forms of property crime, such as burglary and robbery.
In London, for example, police report that organized crime syndicates have been increasingly embracing cybercrime - in particular, payment card fraud and identity scams - given the potential for a vastly greater return on their investment, as well as much lower risk, U.K. cybersecurity expert Alan Woodward says in an interview with Information Security Media Group.
"It's no longer the spotty youth in his bedroom, committing some opportunistic crime," says Woodward, a visiting professor at the University of Surrey who is also a cybersecurity adviser to the association of European police agencies known as Europol. "Some of these are very highly orchestrated [crimes]. They require money mules, they require some quite sophisticated software to be written. And indeed, 'crime as a service' is actually growing as a genre online."
Earlier this year, London's mayor's office and Metropolitan Police released an online theft and fraud report, noting that 70 percent of all fraud now involves the Internet.
But fraud-related losses may be dramatically underreported. Woodward says that in the U.K. alone, the City of London Police - which takes the lead on fraud investigations - estimates that Â£2.2 billion ($3.4 billion) is lost to card fraud every year. But police also suspect that 85 percent of fraud is not being reported by consumers, meaning that annually, actual losses might total Â£12.1 billion ($18.7 billion).
The good news, however, is that police forces in many countries - not just across Europe, but also in North America - have been conducting joint operations where they have been able to track back crimes, shut down criminal organizations and, in many cases, prosecute suspects, Woodward says (see How Do We Catch Cybercrime Kingpins?). "Because the crime is very much across borders now, all the police forces in the U.K. are cooperating with Europol, Interpol, the FBI ... and they're becoming much more successful now."
In this interview (see audio link below photo), Woodward also discusses:
- The economics of cybercrime;
- How policing must adapt - and areas of expertise evolve - to combat cybercrime;
- Why so much of today's fraud may not be getting reported to police;
- Why the classic investigatory technique of "follow the money" still remains law enforcement's No. 1 tool.
In addition to his role as visiting professor at the department of computing at University of Surrey, Woodward is a cybersecurity adviser to Europol's European Cybercrime Center, as well as non-executive director at TeenTech, which encourages teenagers to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering and technology.