Lieske Zonderland (behavioral scientist COPS) & Suzanne Ramaker (Project employee Hack_Right) – Dutch National Police, National High Tech Crime Unit
Cybercrime is rising, offenders are getting younger and the impact is significant. There are multiple reasons that show that offender prevention aimed at cybercrime is becoming increasingly important:
- The motives for committing cybercrime seem to diver from the motives for committing traditional crime. Young cyber offenders are not only driven by financial gain or anger, like we see in traditional crimes. They tend to be curious, want to improve their skills, or are searching for a challenge. These motivations make them more receptive for a behavioral change, and for positive alternatives.
- The potential impact of cybercriminal attacks shows the urgency of prevention. One single cyber offender could potentially do more damage to society than one hundred traditional offenders could do in a year.
- The online activities of youngsters are often hidden from their guardians. This enables them to visit online places where they can meet delinquent peers, that might have a negative influence on them. Online the youngsters are not corrected on their
- Offenders of cybercrime don’t receive the same warnings or feedback that traditional offenders get. When someone commits a small cyber offense, he/she rarely gets feedback on his/her behavior. Often this is ultimately only when Law Enforcement reacts on a big incident. As a result, cyber offenders often get their feedback moment much later than their offline counterparts. By then they are already far on the cybercriminal career pathway.
Offenders at the start of a cybercriminal career pathway need to be diverted before they grow into serious offenders. Therefore, it is important that they know where the online boundaries lie and that they are aware of the positive alternatives in case they have a talent for IT.
In June 2020 the Cyber Offender Prevention Squad (COPS) was formed as part of the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch Police. The aim of the COPS is to deter and divert those on the edge of cybercrime, and degrade and disrupt those committed to cybercrime. The team members have different skillsets (digital/behavioral/intervention focused). By using each other’s expertise, they develop creative interventions. This is done together with internal, external and international partners.
There are three different stages for which prevention interventions are developed:
- Primary prevention: focuses on the society as a whole;
- Secondary prevention: focuses on risk-groups;
- Tertiary prevention: focuses on offenders and prevention of recidivism.
Below we zoom in on a few examples of prevention interventions developed by the COPS.
You’re one click away from Cybercrime
In 2019 the Dutch Police launched a campaign to help raise awareness about cybercrime. The campaign was called ‘You’re one click away from Cybercrime’. In one day, it fooled around 10.000 youngster into almost committing a cybercrime through online traps. By confronting them about the fact that their attempt was illegal, it raised awareness about cybercrime and the potential consequences. Afterwards a campaign film was made, which has been viewed more than 13 million times. 52% of the youngster who watched the film revealed that it changed their online behavior.
Re_B00TCMP is an intervention that is aimed at youngsters at risk of cybercrime and their parents or teachers. The goal is to make them more aware of the chances and risks of the digital world. The re_B00TCMP is a 1-day event, during which different workshops are provided. The police provides a workshop on online boundaries, whereas companies looking for IT-talent provide workshops on the career options, or the positive alternatives. In addition, there are various assignments that challenge the youngsters on a digital level during the day.
The AdWords project is aimed at youngsters at risk that are curious to low level cybercrime (DDoS-attacks). By using ads in Google search, they are informed on the illegality, consequences and positive alternatives. The goal of this is to prevent them from continuing on the cybercriminal pathway. We work closely together with scientist and private partners to test and publicize the effects of this intervention.
Hack_Right is a criminal justice intervention that can be imposed on young cyber offenders, aged 12 to 23, who have committed a cybercrime for the first time. The intervention consists of four parts: ‘legal and ethical boundaries’, ‘impact awareness, excuse and damage repair’, ‘digital talent’ and ‘digital resilience’. The goals of the intervention are to prevent recidivism and to encourage pro-social and legal use of digital talent. Hack_Right is executed by public organizations, such as probation organizations, together with partners from the cybersecurity sector.
Cease & Desist
The goal of Cease & Desist is to warn (potential) young cyber offenders and to make them fully aware of the implications of their actions. (Potential) young cyber offenders get a visit from the police, to give them a final warning. By taking the online world to the offline world, as they visit them in person, the feelings of anonymity are decreased. Furthermore, these conversations provide the youngsters with insight in the consequences and the illegality of their behavior. Apart from these conversations, there is also an option to send out written warnings, in the form of an email or a letter.
Are you convinced of the urgency of cybercrime prevention? And do you want more information on prevention, the team or our interventions? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to help you to act more on the prevention topic. Because like the Dutchman Erasmus said: prevention is better than cure!