Could Crime-Predicting Software Stop Cyber-Criminals in Their Tracks?
In today’s brave new world of the Internet and doing just about everything — from grocery shopping to taxes — online, cyber-crime has become a serious issue for law enforcement here in the US and globally. If last year’s Equifax disaster taught us anything, it’s that even the most secure servers and systems could be hacked. And cyber-crime remains notoriously difficult to track due to the anonymous nature of the internet.
Hope prevails, though, that new technologies can assist law enforcement in tracking and capturing cyber-criminals. Indeed, technology gives us a way to prevent further cyber-crimes from occurring. While critics note such technologies could lead to other privacy violations, considering the high cost and the loss of privacy that comes with cyber-crime, the benefits of new crime-predicting technologies could far outweigh any potential downside.
The Difficulty of Stopping Cyber-Crime
Cyber-crime is definitely on the rise. In recent years, over 1.3 million organizations fell prey to phishing scams alone. A phishing attack occurs when an email or message that appears to come from a legitimate sender is opened, and the user clicks on the link. When the user does so by, say, clicking on a link in an email that appears to come from their financial institution, hackers track keystrokes and capture passwords. These can then be used to access user accounts and steal their money.
The nature of technology is ever-changing. And it isn’t just computer science students keeping up with the changes. As soon as new technology arises, hackers utilize it to further their nefarious purposes. And cyber-crime costs the economy billions. In fact, cyber-crime racks up an estimated $600 billion globally on an annual basis.
How the Technology Works
Crime-predicting technologies work by analyzing social media accounts, emails, instant messaging and other web activity that those suspected of cyber-crimes often utilize. Using a specific algorithm this technology analyzes patterns among groups. This enables the police to track the criminal masterminds behind cyber-crime attacks, as well as catching those involved as partners. The goal of utilizing this type of technology is not only to catch criminals but to prevent future cyber-attacks from occurring.
Other types of technology can help catch criminals by linking activities to a database containing the time, date and location of certain crimes. The software then predicts where the next hit will likely occur, so police can apprehend the party responsible.
Moving into the future, many manufacturers of said technology focus on creating a cell phone app that law enforcement officers could utilize in the field. The benefits of having instant access to such a database cannot be overstated. Not only could such an app help police to intercept crime, but they could also help protect officers by alerting them ahead of time to types of situations that may turn volatile and require additional backup.
Some critics of such technologies state an inherent privacy violation in tracking emails and web activities of people who may well be innocent. However, the exorbitant cost of cyber-crime outweighs such privacy concerns from a law enforcement perspective. After all, at least 50 percent of cyber-crime involves the theft of banking and credit card details. This in itself is not only a violation of the victim’s privacy, but it costs the victims hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars as well.
Crime-predicting technologies can potentially enable victims of cyber-crime to become eligible for restitution once the offender is caught. Furthermore, proponents of such technologies argue there is no harm to consumers if they are not using the internet for nefarious purposes. Plus, the terms of service of many free online email accounts, as well as the terms of service for many social media outlets already, divulge how they utilize information to potential users. The user is free to decline the terms of service and not utilize a particular technology if they disagree with the way a site uses their information.
What You Can Do Now
Crime-predicting technology use remains relatively new. However, in the meantime, there are steps anyone can take to help protect personal information online.
First, all organizations should have every employee undergo training regarding the responsible use of technology. This is particularly critical for businesses, as breaches can easily cost the organization thousands, if not millions.
Personal users should take care to have an appropriate firewall and anti-malware program in place. Best practices include changing passwords regularly, at least on a quarterly basis, and avoid using the same passwords for personal and business accounts. Computer, tablet and smartphone users should also keep their devices up-to-date, as patches are released regularly to address cyber-breaches.
In the end, though, even the best protective measures are not 100 percent infallible against cyber-crime. But with new crime-predicting technologies, law enforcement now has powerful new tools available to catch these criminals and to bring them to justice.