How cybercrime has changed the policing landscape

Technology is changing the way we live our lives and how we engage in society at large. Unfortunately, an increase in cybercrime has accompanied this change.

Cybercrime has become more prolific and linked to various criminal activities, such as terrorism and organized crime. The complexity of cybercrime and its ever-changing methods and techniques make keeping up with the ever-evolving nature of this crime extremely difficult.

This shift in criminal activity has forced law enforcement to adapt and evolve to keep pace. We explore how this affects the policing landscape and what law enforcement can do to combat cybercrime even more effectively with new technology.

What are cybercrimes?

Cybercrimes are any crimes where the perpetrator uses technology to facilitate them. There are many types of cybercrime depending on the motive and intention of the perpetrator. They range from the relatively simple online theft of social media passwords to more complex crimes, including:


Cyberbullying is when perpetrators use the internet to bully or harass individuals in the form of hate speech, harassment or sexual bullying.

The most common form of cyberbullying is distributing harmful information on social media, such as explicit images. Victims of cyberbullying may suffer anxiety and depression and may even attempt suicide.


Phishing is a fraud where criminals attempt to obtain private information by disguising their identity. It is essentially a form of online deception where the perpetrator tricks the victim into revealing their details.

Criminals send ‘phishing’ emails from seemingly legitimate companies or organizations to trick individuals into handing over important information. This information could include security numbers, banking details and passwords.

Brute force attack

In a brute force attack, an attacker will repeatedly attempt to log in to a service without the necessary credentials and aim to find a valid username and password combination. Brute-forcing any system is almost always possible if the number of possible combinations is large enough.

Impersonation and identity theft

Identity theft is a crime where individuals impersonate someone else after obtaining their information. The ease with which cybercriminals can obtain personal information has contributed to the rise in identity theft, including fraudulently using credit cards to purchase items online.

Viruses and trojans

A virus is a piece of code designed to damage or disrupt a computer’s system. Trojans are also pieces of malware that infiltrate a computer and grant remote access to the attacker. Cybercriminals use viruses and trojans to spread malware and steal information.

Distributed denial-of-service

A DDoS attack is when an attacker floods the victim with so many requests that the system cannot handle it and is rendered useless. Criminals use DDoS attacks to hack computer systems, including those of businesses and banks. They often blackmail their victims into paying a ransom to stop the attack.

Prohibited/illegal content

Individuals may use technology to share or distribute illegal content, such as pirated material, child pornography and terrorist activities. Such content may be highly offensive and distressing to victims and the general public.

What are the main critical challenges for law enforcement in fighting cybercrime?

Cybercrime has become more prevalent and is a significant concern for the public and law enforcement. Criminals have developed increasingly sophisticated methods and techniques to hack into critical systems and steal information.

Law enforcement is facing several challenges in protecting the public from cybercrime, such as:

The evolving nature of cybercrime techniques

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for new methods to cheat, steal and commit fraud. They use cutting-edge technology and innovation to facilitate their crimes, by continuously evolving their technology.

The rapid pace of innovation has made it almost impossible to keep up with cybercriminals’ changing tactics and techniques.

These cybercriminals can often circumvent the standard security systems because they are so far ahead of most security systems. As new techniques of cybercrime emerge, law enforcement must be able to adapt quickly to deter and combat them.

Access to data and location

Law enforcement often lacks access to vital data concerning cybercrime during the investigation. The loss of crucial data makes solving cybercrime and identifying perpetrators challenging.

Even in the presence of this data, locating the perpetrator is also a challenge. Due to the sophisticated nature of most cybercrime techniques, law enforcement often cannot identify a specific location as it is difficult to trace back malicious IP addresses. Law enforcement must obtain vital information on time to combat this issue.

Identifying and categorizing cybercrimes

The variance of sophisticated cybercrime techniques is often difficult to identify. Law enforcement must look at the entire chain of evidence to determine the type of cybercrime involved, a difficult task when the severity and complexity of new cybercrime varies dramatically.

Cybercrime spans numerous categories and involves many areas of expertise, such as computer science and information technology. Each area requires specific knowledge and expertise that may not be present within the law enforcement community. To make this process easier, law enforcement can hire expert consultants to provide objective advice on effectively engaging in the fight against cybercrime.

This approach would allow them to differentiate between different types of cybercrimes based on the motivation and intent of the perpetrator.

There are often insufficient laws governing technology, and most do not correctly address the phenomenon of cybercrime. This fact can be very problematic regarding prosecution and conviction, because law enforcement must rely on outdated laws that do not apply to cybercrime.

In creating a robust legal framework, authorities must consider the specific motivations behind cybercrime and the unique circumstances involved. An evolving threat requires a flexible and adaptive legal framework to combat it effectively.

Interoperability with other agencies and law enforcement partners

Cybercrime often crosses geographical boundaries and involves several agencies and law enforcement partners. Law enforcement must rely on its partners to help combat cybercrime. However, this can make it even more difficult for organizations to collaborate due to the lack of interoperability between various systems.

To effectively combat cybercrime, there must be cooperation between partners and agencies. International law enforcement must cooperate to create a cohesive plan of action that will be easier for all members to follow.

Lack of awareness among the public

Another prominent challenge law enforcement faces is a general lack of awareness among the public. Most people are unaware that they are vulnerable to cybercrime or how to protect themselves from it. This reality makes them highly susceptible to the risks of cybercrime.

Law enforcement must work with their partners and agencies to increase awareness about cybercrime among the public. This approach will allow law enforcement to expand its resources and help affected individuals.

Funding and training

Cybercrimes are becoming increasingly expensive to investigate and prosecute. Law enforcement may need to gather information from various sources and individuals using a lot of time and resources.

The ever-evolving and sophisticated nature of cybercrime requires law enforcement to utilize new technologies and skills, which can sometimes mean training on the job. For example, a course such as the Laurier online policing degree helps students gain the relevant skills and knowledge to use the correct legal response to cybercrime.

Law enforcement must maintain a sufficient budget to cover these expenses. They must carefully consider their priorities to allocate their funds accordingly.

The impact of cybercrime on the policing landscape

Cybercrimes have become increasingly sophisticated, forcing law enforcement to adapt to keep up with the changing nature of crimes and criminals. This occurs as law enforcement shifts from traditional policing to a more proactive stance. We highlight the impact of cybercrime on law enforcement:

Firewalls and intrusion detection systems

The burden of proof in a court of law is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Proving cybercrime becomes even more complicated when cybercriminals use encryption, anonymizers, and other means to cover their tracks.

Law enforcement has had to adapt to this by building the necessary infrastructure to protect its organizations and the public from cyber threats. Firewalls and intrusion detection systems are an excellent defense against many cyber threats.

Firewalls are essential in order to prevent cyberattacks from penetrating a network. A firewall is a security system that monitors and protects an organization from unwanted traffic. The firewall prevents unauthorized information from entering or exiting.

Intrusion detection systems are a form of firewall that monitor networks for suspicious activity that could indicate an attack is imminent. They monitor any suspicious activity and alert the administrator, who can then take action as necessary.

Digital forensics

Forensics refers to the science of collecting, analyzing, and presenting evidence in a legal setting. This work is vital to law enforcement organizations as they gather evidence for court use.

An upsurge in cybercrime means that digital forensics is becoming increasingly important.

The increasing sophistication of criminals means they are harder to catch, which makes gathering the necessary evidence more difficult.

Fortunately, digital forensics is becoming more prevalent and accessible. The ability to collect evidence online or in the field has allowed law enforcement to keep up with cyber criminals, making the process easier.

Digital forensics uses forensic analysis software to gather information on digital devices to help solve crimes. Law enforcement can use digital forensics software to find deleted files or uncover Secure Shell (SSH) logs that may have been altered by an attacker trying to cover their tracks.

The goal of digital forensics is to capture digital evidence from a computer or communication device, preserve it, and make it available to law enforcement in case of a cybercrime investigation. The best way to keep the evidence is through an image of the original on an external storage device that law enforcement can access, such as a hard drive.

Computer forensic analysis is a field in which computer forensic experts apply their skills and knowledge to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute cybercrimes.


Informants are individuals who provide information on crime and criminal activity to law enforcement. When criminals face the reality that cybercrime is not victimless, they may be more willing to provide law enforcement with information to help catch other cyber criminals.

Informants can play a significant role in cybercrime investigations because they can provide valuable information about cybercriminals, such as their location or operations. Law enforcement relies on informants in order to get information and evidence about those who would commit cybercrimes. This helps to prevent more damage from occurring.

Credibility plays a significant role in cybercrime investigations. Authorities must follow specific procedures to ensure that it is fair and legitimate to increase the credibility of an informant. Investigators must also review statements carefully as they are very often inaccurate or irrelevant information given with ulterior motives.

Search warrants

As criminals become savvier, investigators and prosecutors must do the same to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of the crime. Finding specific information quickly and easily can be the difference between catching cybercriminals or allowing them to get away with their malicious activities.

Law enforcement and the judiciary can now work together to deliver service of process. Because digital devices store most of their data, investigators must access these devices to retrieve evidence quickly and efficiently.

To obtain a search warrant for a computer, investigators must present credible information about the crime to a judge. The judge will then issue an order for the computer or server to be searched and seized. From here, officers analyze their contents and locate evidence that might help close a case.

Liaison with internet service providers

Law enforcement must also create a good working relationship with internet service providers (ISPs). As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, ISPs are being called upon to collaborate in investigations. Working with law enforcement allows ISPs to assist investigators with recovering data from cybercrime.

This collaboration involves the law enforcement and ISP teams building a relationship of trust and sharing information to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes. ISPs and law enforcement can work together to identify specific IP addresses or devices connected to a crime.

This cooperation can also improve ISP security measures and their ability to protect customers online. They can secure their network and identify potential risks, serving customers better and remaining competitive with other companies.

Final thoughts

Cybercrime is on the rise, and it will continue to spread with technological innovation. This technical struggle has changed how law enforcement conducts its operations and investigations.

By developing new ways to collect evidence, they can stop criminals ahead of time before they cause damage or steal data.

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