Despite the futuristic, sci-fi sounding name, cybercrime is a real problem that is making its mark on the criminal justice system. Reliance on personal devices and constant connectivity has left people more exposed and vulnerable to cybercrimes than ever.
The frequency, along with the potentially complex and anonymous nature of these crimes leaves authorities in a difficult spot to deal with them. As technology evolves, these challenges only become more difficult.
Virtual currency, for instance, increases anonymity, making it difficult to trace who is involved in the commission of offences. At the same time, evolving police tools, like stingray phone trackers, impede upon the rights of private citizens. While tools become more advanced, law enforcement must find ways to adapt to the challenges of cybercrime.
Three Categories of Cybercrime
1. Cyber-Dependent Crime
Cyber-dependent crimes are those conducted solely through the use of information communication technologies, such as computers and networks. Hacking, one of the most well-known types of cybercrime, is cyber-dependent. Spreading viruses, malware, or launching DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks are other common forms of cyber-dependent crime.
The ability to run these activities completely through digital means makes them especially difficult to track and prosecute.
2. Cyber-Enabled Crime
Cyber-enabled crimes are a hybrid. Although the crime does not occur solely in cyberspace, it does rely on some cyber activity to commit the offence. Fraud and identity theft are among the most common forms of cyber-enabled crime.
Toronto’s taxi fraud scam is an example of cyber-enabled crime. The accused taxi drivers used a digital device to steal credit and debit card information from taxi riders. The device enabled the crime, but there was still the physical interaction required to drive the customer and acquire the credit card.
3. Cyber-Supported Crime
Cyber-supported crimes are similar to cyber-enabled in that they both use a hybrid of traditional and cyber activity. Where cyber-supported crimes differ is that the digital devices aren’t used in the crime itself, but in the planning, organization or communication. For example, texting addresses and times have the potential to classify a crime as cyber-supported.
The problem with this category is that this label can make a crime sound more sophisticated than it is, when almost any crime can be considered cyber-supported with even the most minor degree of planning. Even looking up details online, such as store hours before a robbery, can count as a cyber-supported crime.
The ease of fitting a crime into this category can lead to being charged as part of a criminal organization, rather than as an individual. This results in more severe penalties.
Charged as an Individual or a Criminal Organization
Cybercrime lends itself easily to collaboration, which can escalate to more serious criminal charges. Collecting digital communications can allow law enforcement to connect more people to a crime.
As well, people who believed they acted on their own may find themselves accused of organized criminal activity due to the tools they used. Criminal activity conducted through darknets, sharing networks or botnets can lead to an individual being charged with involvement in a criminal organization.
Finding a balance in where to draw the line between an individual and an organization in cybercrime is an ongoing challenge.
Warrants and Evidence
The justice system is still learning how to handle the new role personal devices play into the legal system. How digital evidence is collected continues to be a challenge for both law enforcement and the public. Understanding what is and isn’t protected leads to important questions about what police can do without cell phone or wiretap warrants.
In the era of cybercrime, challenging evidence is becoming more important than ever in protecting the rights of defendants and the general public.
Toronto Cybercrime Defence Lawyer
William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with experience in challenging warrants and evidence. He ensures your rights and dignity are protected in litigation and trial.
If you, or a loved one, are facing criminal charges, trust a criminal lawyer to help you understand your charges, your options, and their potential outcomes. Contact William Jaksa today for your consultation.