Internet “Street Crime”

Last month at CeBIT in Sydney I was speaking about the Cybercrime implications of ubiquitous broadband and increased general ‘Net use.  While both a lot of my work and my reading has to do with big, global, far reaching Cyber crime and Cyber attack issues, one of the things I pointed out was that increased uptake of ‘Net use, especially public and wireless, would be an inevitable increase in what I call “Cyber Street Crime”, i.e. locally committed crimes where attacker and victim are brought together by physical proximity as opposed to the hacker or organized crime actor who might be continents away from their victim or target.

Sitting in a Cybercafe with a packet sniffer eavesdropping on unsecured wireless data, or perhaps working in that cafe and installing keyloggers on the machines are the kinds of ultra-simple but lucrative and hard to track “street crimes” that I think will be particularly high-growth in emerging and increasing-penetration markets for broadband and wireless.

An article today from the Times of India bears out this hypothesis, and is the first place I’ve happened to read since giving the speech that puts numbers to just the predicted (and predictable) phenomenon I’m talking about.

Cyber crime in the city shows upward trend

PUNE, INDIA: Increased internet transactions have led to a rise in cyber crime in the city. Till June this year, 240 cases have been registered with the cyber cell of the police as against 281 cases registered during the whole of 2009. These facts were presented by deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Rajendra Dahale at the launch of a cyber awareness programme on Wednesday. Dahale added that in 2006 there were just 79 complaints lodged at the cyber cell….

What I thought was interesting was that the city of Pune (3.5 million) has a dedicated “Cyber Cell” and they are tracking statistics on these kinds of Internet crimes as far back as 2006.  Many municipalities, some of them in supposedly more “developed” nations lag far behind Pune in their thinking and awareness from a law enforcement, governance and/or policy standpoint. The cops may not have the technical skills to investigate or track these crimes, the businesses and users may not be aware of the risks and dangers that go along with the wondrous benefits of easy Internet and wireless access, and in some cases we see that at a policy and legislative level some crimes aren’t even defined as crimes unless they have a “traditionally illegal” offline analog.

It’s important for governments, especially those like Australia’s, which are aggressively pushing broadband penetration (with the non-mandated but inevitable explosion in hardware upgrades and public wireless that inevitably follow) to note that there is a dark lining in the economic silver cloud.  By no means should this be a deterrent from proceeding, but from policy, governance and legislation to the law enforcement block-and-tackle of proper investigative procedures, there’s a lot of groundwork that is better laid early and proactively than reactively after the problems arise.

From Cyber street crime to crime in virtual worlds (look for a future post on ‘gold farming’ and coercion), there are a host of legal, policy and political issues that digital native populations and their leaders have to wrestle with and many of them aren’t tackling those concerns.  Kudos to Pune – I’ve seen jurisdictions and talked to both police and politicians in both America and Australia who are less attuned, less equipped and less resourced than this Indian city.


Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are mine alone, and do not represent the views, policies or positions of Cyveillance, Inc. or its parent, QinetiQ-North America.  I speak here only for myself and no postings made on this blog should be interpreted as communications by, for or on behalf of, Cyveillance (though I may occasionally plug the extremely cool work we do and the fascinating, if occasionally frightening, research we openly publish.)

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