Crime rates have been recorded for as long as most of us can remember and will typically conjure up thoughts of homicide, burglary, and robbery. However, maybe these crime reports are a little misleading in this digital age where theft for example, is often more likely to occur online than affect you in a more physical sense.
Last year England and Wales made the forward-thinking move of including cyber crime in their crime figures. The inclusion of an estimated million online fraud incidents and 2.5 million cyber crime offenses for the first time provided a different vantage point on 21st century crime. These figures illustrate that although the traditional types of villainy are falling when combining with cyber crime offenses, the measurement shows a dramatic overall increase in crime.
We often talk about how technology is disrupting almost every industry that we can think of but authorities often conveniently neglect to include the crime figures that show how even the criminal underworld is being transformed by technology too. This shift in criminal behavior is causing a rise in offenses that are mostly kept off everyone’s radar which is causing more harm than good.
Our always online ethos combined with the security vulnerabilities that plague most devices when not kept updated with software patches is changing the nature of crime as we know it, but, at least, some governments are waking up to the fact and finally starting to monitor how crime is changing. It’s also interesting to note how law enforcement is under the same pressure to stay ahead of the curve as technology continues to force everyone to step up their game.
As cybercrime begins to overtake physical offenses for the first time, we need to realize that as our world continues to be dominated by technology so is organized crime. There is a common misconception that these out of sight online attacks are victimless crimes or are not treated with the same level of importance as those that occur offline, and this needs to change.
However, these virtual offenses that range from fraudulent to abusive behavior on social media are finally being recognized as serious crimes, but most importantly are increasingly no longer hidden from police reports and statistics.
The overwhelming majority of cyber crime could be prevented by using the same vigilance and instinct that we use in our physical world. However, when online, most people seem to throw caution to the wind and completely forget about any personal security precautions. Now that good old fashioned crimes such as theft and harassment are migrating online; maybe this is a timely reminder of how we upgrade our attitudes as well as our software operating systems.
It’s easy to see why so many are confused about online security and best practices when the encryption that protects our bank accounts, shields our cars and airplanes from being taken over by malicious hacks is now being asked to be weakened to provide a backdoor for authorities or governments.
If the powers that be have little understanding of our online security that stores all of our information, what hope does everyone else have? Apple cautiously warned of the implications around weakening our security when they advised “A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys, the bad guys would find it too” Now that our entire lives and homes can be managed online, we need to become street smart in our virtual world too.
As the impact of the Internet of Things begins to take hold, there will be a wealth of unsecured products that we could happily invite into our homes. There is a definite need for a security certification ranking system that would allow users to make an informed choice before bringing a device to their home that would allow organized crime or a 15-year-old boy with a healthy interest in hacking to break in.
The bottom line is crime is evolving with our digital lifestyle and thirst for technology. Now that we spend both our time and money online, we shouldn’t be too surprised either. Securing devices on your home network, ensuring you do not skip those frustrating software updates or increasing our awareness and security responsibilities, including changing your passwords, is something that we should all begin taking much more seriously.