One could wager that technology has equally blessed and cursed law enforcement agencies around the globe.
On one hand, criminals are executing complex crimes behind the safety of a keyboard—moving money and people to new locations with a mouse click. On the other hand, the very technology giving criminals an arena is the same thing allowing law enforcement agencies to pinpoint drug cartel drop points and sex-trafficking routes.
Fighting Fire with Fire
At a basic level, the everyday patrolman has a myriad of technology options that, simply put, were luxury items at one time. Technologies, like dash cameras, social media outlets and information sharing platforms, are prevalent in the nation’s law enforcement agencies, according to research conducted by Kevin Strom for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Storm’s research indicated there are some major differences in what large agencies have at their disposal compared to smaller ones, but the reality is there are few agencies that haven’t seen some sort of a technology upgrade in recent years. And it would be safe to assume there likely is not a single agency that hasn’t been affected by the use of technology.
Criminals have capitalized on the fact that technology is rapidly evolving—a fact not lost on law enforcement agencies around the world.
From November 2017 to April 2018, 30.1 percent of web application attack traffic originated from IP addresses in the United States, according to Statistica.com.
These statistics also show that our nation was “the country most targeted by web attacks, suffering from over 238.6 million attacks during the fourth quarter of 2017.”
Because of this, law enforcement agencies across the United States and abroad are being forced to fight fire with fire, employ new strategies, implement new methods and change the way they handle cyber-crime, by becoming experts in the arena.
A new wave of computer science experts are making their way into the law enforcement ring to square up with terrorists, gangs, shady business owners and disruptive computer geeks looking to make a name for themselves.
For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made great strides in shifting its thought process by diving into the world of cyber security to meet threats head on.
Armed with Computer Science
According to the FBI’s Cyber Crime webpage, some of the changes the bureau has made to combat the ever-increasing threat of cyber-crime include: the establishment of an entire Cyber Division, specially trained cyber squads in its headquarters and in each of its 56 field offices, Cyber Action Teams, Computer Crimes Task Forces and several growing partnerships with other federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, among others.
Agencies across the nation are well-aware of the importance of cyber security, which is why job titles such as Information Security Analyst, Computer Forensics Investigator and Chief Information Security Officer exist today.
Thanks to degrees in computer science, law enforcement agencies are able to recruit highly skilled graduates with the knowledge necessary to stay one step ahead of the cyber-crime threats.
But that, unfortunately, does not mean the occurrences of cyber-crime will suddenly dry up and disappear. It means that criminals will be educating themselves and continuing to take things to the next level.
Instances of ransomware or “malicious software which locks a user’s device or data until they pay a ransom,” have steadily increased since 2013, according to a Forbes article written by Kate O’Flaherty.
Fortunately, many agencies offer recommendations to help combat the constant threat. The FBI’s Cyber Crime webpage encourages organizations to make sure preventative measures are being taken—“both in terms of awareness training for employees and robust technical prevention controls,” as well as having “a solid business continuity plan in the event of a ransomware attack.”
Recognizing the warning signs can be the difference between business as usual and files rendered useless.
O’Flaherty’s article quoted cybersecurity strategist Adenike Cosgrove, saying,‘“Cybercriminals have found new ways to exploit the human factor—the instincts of curiosity and trust that lead well-intentioned people to play into the hands of the attacker. This could be in the form of a disguised URL or seemingly benign attachment, but all it takes is one click and the ransomware can take hold immediately.”’
Humans make mistakes, but luckily law enforcement agents who are highly trained in computer science are on the front lines to ensure cyber criminals are caught when attacks do occur and make it their mission to stop additional attacks before they even start.