Tag Archives: Identity theft

What does high tech crime preparedness mean to you?

a decade of mobile telephonyWhen someone calls or emails your agency to make a report about a high tech crime… what do you do?

Some reports, like child pornography, are easy. Internet Crimes Against Children task forces exist in every state — some states have multiple task forces — and even if your agency isn’t affiliated, there’s always the nearest FBI field office.

But what about identity theft? Cyberstalking? Phone service abuse? Do you have officers or detectives trained to identify and investigate these issues? If you rely on state or regional resources like computer forensics labs, how soon can you expect to hear from them? Do you even take a report?

This New York Times article details some of the threats that exist today — not threats that are coming in a year or two, but things that are happening right now. No, your cops don’t have to be malware experts; far from it.

But they do need to understand the fallout from malware infections. They do need to understand social engineering (hint: it’s not limited to high tech) and it would be helpful for them to know all the different ways credit card numbers can be stolen.

When I wrote an article in 2009 about cyberstalking, it was astonishing to me that many police departments don’t take reports. Not knowing how to deal with certain high tech crimes, they may even turn victims away, or worse, assume keylogging or other forms of “spyware” can’t possibly exist.

Well, they do, and far beyond. So even if an agency cannot respond in full, they owe it to their citizens at least to react: to ask the right questions when taking a report, to assess the extent of a cyber threat (read the above article to see information about a rural sheriff’s office doing just that), and to refer the victim to a resource that can help when necessary.

True: departments’ resources have dwindled. It can be hard to tell the difference between legitimate victims, and individuals with a mental illness or those who seek attention. Cyber threats may also not seem as serious as physical threats. It may not be worth the time to file a report when you don’t have the resources to respond, and have no way to forward the report to an agency that can.

Still: resources exist. At the very least, an agency should be prepared to direct a victim to the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3). But because even those resources are not ideally staffed, and because (as the Times points out) high tech crime will only become more ubiquitious over time, every agency should be prepared to educate itself.

Next week we’ll talk about some of the resources that can help you do that, and investigate the crimes too. Best of all? The tools are free. Stay tuned: subscribe (that’s free too)!

Creative Commons License photo credit: AutomaticDefence

Experts: Branding opportunities in disguise

Image: <a href=Much of the focus on law enforcement use of social media is on police departments as a whole. From a community-relations standpoint, this is important—but police departments may be missing out on a valuable opportunity to brand themselves and law enforcement in general. For that, they might consider turning to individual experts.

What’s an individual expert?

It’s the detective who, in addition to work with the PIO to “push” information through the department MySpace page, also allows the public to connect with him personally to end unwanted communications when they’re on MySpace.

It’s the cybercrimes investigator who’s actively involved on LinkedIn, connecting with other investigators through networking and even going beyond the law enforcement community to connect with counterparts in private industry.

It’s the cop who gives presentations to community groups, senior citizens’ homes, and schools—and posts them on SlideShare, where anyone can access critical information about identity theft, Internet crimes against children, and other high-profile crimes.

And it’s the patrol officer who’s on Twitter, or who keeps her own blog; who humanizes police work, shows the person behind the uniform and the real issues behind the 6 o’clock news.

Uncontrolled information?

To be sure, this idea is outside the bounds of traditional law enforcement hierarchies. Tightly controlled information has been—and still is, to some extent—crucial to the overall mission of preserving peace and public safety.

But social media has changed the way people look for information. They trust traditional media less, and each other more. That’s why individuals have a role to play in this century’s organizations.

CEOs of private corporations face the same issues as police chiefs. If “just anyone” can blog or tweet, doesn’t that risk the organization’s reputation just as much as the rogue on YouTube?

To some extent, yes. But the people who use social media tend to be there because they’re motivated to improve their own and others’ lives. Those who use it for malicious purposes are shunned—the implicit understanding among “hard core” users is that social media is there to help.

(For a look at a corporation that has allowed employees to blog freely, read this 2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article that went in-depth with Microsoft employee blogging.)

Thus the organizations that allow their employees free rein find success in the online social world. Likewise, the police departments that allow officers, within appropriate boundaries, to expand the reach of their overall community policing efforts can only improve their standing among the online public.

Image: Mai Le via Flickr

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