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Cybercrime and shifts in opportunities during COVID-19: A preliminary analysis in the UK

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The COVID-19 outbreak and the far-reaching lockdown measures are having direct and indirect effects on complex social domains, including opportunities for crime offline and online. This paper presents preliminary analyses about the short-term effect of COVID-19 and lockdown measures on cyber-dependent crime and online fraud in the UK. Time series analyses from data about crimes known to police between May 2019 and May 2020 are used to explore the extent to which cybercrime has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. More specifically, we examine whether cybercrime has suffered an increase during the months with the strictest lockdown restrictions, as an effect of the displacement of crime opportunities from physical to online environments. Results indicate that reports of cybercrime have increased during the COVID-19 outbreak, and these were remarkably large during the two months with the strictest lockdown policies and measures. In particular, the number of frauds associated with online shopping and auctions, and the hacking of social media and email, which are the two most common cybercrime categories in the UK, have seen the largest increases in the number of incidents. The increase in cyber-dependent crimes has mainly been experienced by individual victims rather than organisations.
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Cybercrime and shifts in opportunities
during COVID-19
A preliminary analysis in the UK
David Buil-Gil1, Fernando Miró-Llinares2, Asier Moneva2, Steven Kemp3 and Nacho Díaz-
Castaño2
1Department of Criminology, University of Manchester, UK
2Crímina Research Centre, Miguel Hernandez University, Spain
3Department of Public Law, University of Girona, Spain
Corresponding author
David Buil-Gil. G18 Humanities Bridgeford Street Building, Oxford Road, M13 9PL,
Manchester, UK. Email: david.builgil@manchester.ac.uk
Abstract
The COVID-19 outbreak and the far-reaching lockdown measures are having direct and
indirect effects on complex social domains, including opportunities for crime offline and online.
This paper presents preliminary analyses about the short-term effect of COVID-19 and
lockdown measures on cyber-dependent crime and online fraud in the UK. Time series
analyses from data about crimes known to police between May 2019 and May 2020 are used
to explore the extent to which cybercrime has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. More
specifically, we examine whether cybercrime has suffered an increase during the months with
the strictest lockdown restrictions, as an effect of the displacement of crime opportunities from
physical to online environments. Results indicate that reports of cybercrime have increased
during the COVID-19 outbreak, and these were remarkably large during the two months with
the strictest lockdown policies and measures. In particular, the number of frauds associated
with online shopping and auctions, and the hacking of social media and email, which are the
two most common cybercrime categories in the UK, have seen the largest increases in the
number of incidents. The increase in cyber-dependent crimes has mainly been experienced
by individual victims rather than organisations.
Keywords
Crime trends, Internet, cyber security, fraud, police statistics, routine activities
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Introduction
This paper analyses the extent to which cybercrimes known to police have been affected by
the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown measures imposed by governments to prevent the
spread of the virus. More specifically, we analyse if police-recorded cyber-dependent and
cyber-enabled crimes have suffered an increase in the UK during the months with the strictest
lockdown restrictions, as an effect of the displacement of crime opportunities from physical to
online environments. Cyber-dependent crimes are offences that can only be committed using
some form of computer systems or networks, such as hacking, computer viruses and denial
of service attacks; while cyber-enabled crimes refer to traditional offences that have increased
in scale and reach due to the use of computer systems, for example, online frauds and
phishing scams (Wall, 2007).
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing extensive harmful consequences on the lives of millions
of people. As of 29th June 2020, 10 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally,
and almost 500 thousand deaths have been confirmed, according to data from the European
Union Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. This global pandemic and the far-reaching
lockdown measures imposed by governments worldwide are having wide-ranging effects on
complex social domains such as working patterns, mobility, consumption, social cohesion and
suicide (Kawohl and Nordt, 2020; Lianos, 2020). The pandemic has also fostered support for
wealth redistribution and welfare policies (Matthewman and Huppatz, 2020).
Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis is associated with drastic, unprecedented changes in crime
opportunities. Many have noted that most street crimes have decreased during lockdown due
to reduced opportunities for physical convergence between offenders and targets (Ashby,
2020a; Mohler et al., 2020), as has also been shown in the UK (see Figure 1), while domestic
abuse may increase since perpetrators and victims are required to remain confined in the
same space for long periods of time (Piquero et al., 2020). Some argue that the massive move
towards home working and online shopping during the outbreak may also contribute to a
displacement of crime opportunities from offline to online environments (Collier et al., 2020;
Hawdon et al., 2020; Payne, 2020; Payne et al., 2020). In other words, as persons spend more
time connected to the Internet, and less time on the streets, opportunities for street violent and
property crimes decrease while Internet crimes may increase (Miró-Llinares and Moneva,
2019). In this sense, this is one of the first papers to empirically examine the effects of the
COVID-19 crisis on cybercrime, but it is also one of the first papers to analyse the potential
impact that spending more time at home (and on the Internet) may have on cybercrime. This
paper presents key information to gain understanding about the immediate effect of lockdown
measures on cybersecurity risks faced by individuals and organisations, which can be
essential for government agencies and companies to anticipate threats, design prevention
strategies and outline cybersecurity recovery plans, and for researchers to further understand
the impact of rapid social changes on crime online and offline. Cybercrime has important
financial, emotional and psychological impacts on those who suffer it (Cross, 2018).
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Figure 1. Count of crimes (violent crimes, burglary, theft and shoplifting, and criminal damage
and arson) known to police in the UK (excluding Scotland) from May 2019 to May 2020.
Source: own elaboration (data from DATA.POLICE.UK)
Lockdown, routine activities and cybercrime
Since, in 1979, Cohen and Felson (1979) explained that crime rates in the US were going up
due to a series of societal transformations that had affected people’s routine activities, many
have studied how rapid social changes impact opportunities for offenders to converge with
potential targets under the absence of guardians that are capable of protecting these targets
(Felson and Eckert, 2018; Nieuwbeerta et al., 2003). Cohen and Felson (1979) studied how
the increased use of electronic durables and motor vehicles facilitated access to new valuable
goods and made criminals more mobile, and how increasing female labour participation,
growing urban population and access to holidays reduced citizens’ capacity to watch over
each other and act as guardians’ to reduce criminal opportunities. This triple convergence
between offenders, targets and (lack of) guardians described by Cohen and Felson (1979) to
explain opportunities for crime is known as Routine Activities Approach (RAA). Although RAA
has been applied to cybercrime research to identify online risks and factors associated with
various forms of cyber-victimisation (Holt and Bossler, 2008; Leukfeldt and Yar, 2016), few
researchers have examined how the generalisation of Internet use in society may have
affected opportunities for online and offline crime, and more specifically how the shift in
societal activities from physical places to the Internet may have increased opportunities for
crime in cyberspace (Miró-Llinares and Moneva, 2019; Wright et al., 2017). It seems probable
that social transformations experienced during the COVID-19 outbreak have had substantial
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impacts on the illegitimate opportunity structures that facilitate cyber-dependent and cyber-
enabled crimes.
Of all the effects of the pandemic on people’s everyday activities, perhaps the natural
experiment produced by lockdown measures, the closure of businesses and education centres
and the move towards home working is what has affected the greatest number of people.
These changes have obvious consequences for citizens’ offline and online routine activities
and are likely to affect illegitimate opportunity structures for the convergence between targets,
offenders and guardians offline and online (Felson et al., 2020). For instance, many use their
personal computers to access business information, web conferencing substitutes in-person
meetings, online shopping grows as a way to purchase products and services, and businesses
remain empty for weeks while households are occupied most of the time. If the pandemic-
related lockdown measures are multiplying the use of computer networks for business and
leisure, and the number of e-commerce users is growing rapidly (Office for National Statistics,
2020a), it is also likely that new opportunities for the convergence described by RAA will arise
on the Internet (Hawdon et al., 2020). In this sense, Payne (2020) analysed data from the US
Federal Trade Commission and observed that reports of most types of fraud increased during
the first months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019; Lallie et al. (2020) noted that
known cyber-attacks reported globally increased during the outbreak; and Collier et al. (2020)
observed an increase in denial of service attacks in the UK. More specifically, since many
businesses temporarily stopped their activity due to lockdown (Office for National Statistics,
2020b), we expect that the short-term increase in cybercrime primarily affected individual
victims rather than organisations.
Hypotheses
Based on the previous review of literature, we pose the following hypotheses:
H1. Opportunities for cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes have increased
during the COVID-19 crisis.
H2. The growth of cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes has primarily affected
individual victims.
Data and methods
Action Fraud, the UK National Fraud and Cybercrime Reporting Centre, created a data
dashboard in June 2020 to publish monthly statistics about fraud and cybercrime known to the
police (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/data). Crime statistics are published from May 2019
for various types of fraud and cybercrime. Data about regions where victims reside are also
available, as well as whether victims are individuals or organisations. This paper analyses
data about online frauds and cyber-dependent crimes recorded between May 2019 and May
2020 in order to explore potential effects of COVID-19 on cybercrimes reported to the
authorities before and during the pandemic. More specifically, we will analyse the following
forms of cybercrime:
Computer virus/malware/spyware: A computer virus is a software that can replicate
itself and spread from one computer to another, causing computer system failure or
corrupting or stealing data. Malware refers to code scripts or computer software
designed to disrupt or deny computer operations.
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Denial of Service attacks (with and without extortion): Attempts to make a computer or
server unavailable to its users by bombarding it with thousands of hits, malware or
mails, frequently using ‘bots’ to perform these attacks, to overload the system.
Hacking - Server: Unauthorised use of, or access into, a computer server.
Hacking - Personal: Unauthorised use of, or access into, a personal computer that is
not a server.
Hacking - Social media and email: Unauthorised use of, or access into, individual social
media or email accounts.
Hacking - PBX/Dial Through: Unauthorised use of, or access into, telephone systems
that contain features such as ‘call forwarding’, ‘voicemail’ and ‘divert’. This crime is
mainly experienced by organisations.
Hacking combined with extortion: Threats (blackmail) connected to computer hacking.
Online fraud (including online shopping and auctions): This category includes a variety
of frauds enabled by digital technologies, such as online banking fraud, Internet-
enabled card-not-present fraud, fraudulent sales through online auction or retail sites,
consumer scams, phishing scams, pharming and so-called ‘online romance’ scams.
All previous categories classify cyber-dependent crimes, while online fraud is a type of
cyber-enabled offence.
In the UK, lockdown measures were announced on March 23, and new restrictions were
added in April. April and May were the two months with the strictest lockdown restrictions. We
aim to compare cybercrime statistics recorded in May 2019, prior to the pandemic, and May
2020, during lockdown. We calculate the percentage relative change between the count of
crimes in May 2019 and May 2020 and make use of Poisson Mean Tests to analyse if the
difference between the two crime counts is statistically significant (at 95% confidence level).
We also examine trends in online frauds and cyber-dependent crimes from May 2019 until
May 2020.
We note, however, that data published by Action Fraud may suffer from measurement error
arising from victims’ non-reporting to the police, and the loss amounts due to cybercrime,
which are also briefly described here, are based on the victims’ reports and are not verified by
the police. Thus, data analysed in this paper include cyber-dependent crimes and online
shopping frauds known to the authorities in the UK, and these are reliable indicators of police-
recorded offences, but it is yet unknown if lockdown measures may have impacted crime
reporting rates alongside crime victimisation (Caneppele and Aebi, 2017). The accuracy of
these data as indicators of cybercrime incidence will be checked in further research using
survey data. In addition, monthly data on crime counts have inherent limitations already
highlighted elsewhere (i.e., not every month has the same number of days, nor weekends;
Ashby, 2020b), which will be considered when analysing the results.
Results
Table 1 compares cyber-dependent crimes and online frauds recorded in May 2019 and May
2020, and calculates the relative change between the two values for each crime type. We
observe that most cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes have experienced an increase
between both years, and this increase is remarkably large and statistically significant in the
case of hacking of personal computers, hacking of social media and email, and online fraud.
Online fraud and hacking of social media and email are also the categories with the largest
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frequency of offences. Thus, we observe that the overall number of cybercrimes is markedly
larger in May 2020 than May 2019. We note, nevertheless, that three types of cybercrime have
seen a decrease between May 2019 and May 2020. In the case of hacking of PBX/Dial
Through, this decrease may be affected by the small number of cases registered and is not
statistically significant, but the decreases observed in the count of computer viruses and
hacking combined with extortion deserve further scrutiny.
The number of reports of computer viruses appears to be slightly larger in May 2019 than May
2020, but it should be noted that the figure for computer viruses recorded in May 2019 (742
reports) was the largest in 2019 and it was notably large compared to the average monthly
count of computer viruses in 2019 (𝑥̅ = 615.6, 𝑠𝑑 = 72.7). Moreover, the highest number of
computer viruses since April 2019 was recorded in April 2020 (818), when strict lockdown
measures were already in place. Similarly, the month with the largest number of reports of
hacking combined with extortion was April 2020 (1,058 offences). In the case of hacking
combined with extortion, we also note that the reported value of financial losses due to this
crime was much greater in May 2020 (£86,7K) than May 2019 (£10.2K). Thus, although Table
1 appears to indicate that some cybercrime categories may not have increased during the
COVID-19 outbreak, we need to provide some context by presenting time series analyses to
examine the evolution of police-recorded crimes over time.
Table 1. Cyber-dependent crime and online fraud recorded in May 2019 and May 2020.
Count in
May 2019
Count in
May 2020
Relative
change (%)
Computer virus/malware/spyware
742
648
-12.67*
Denial of Service attack
14
18
28.57
Hacking - Server
24
25
4.17
Hacking - Personal
270
479
77.41***
Hacking - Social media and email
939
1,449
54.31***
Hacking - PBX/Dial Through
9
7
-22.22
Hacking combined with extortion
313
251
-19.81*
Online fraud - online shopping and auctions
5,619
8,482
50.95***
All cybercrimes
7,930
11,359
43.24***
***p-value < 0.001, **p-value < 0.01, *p-value < 0.05
Source: own elaboration (data from Action Fraud UK)
It should be highlighted that some of the cybercrime categories with a less evident increase
during the outbreak refer to crimes more commonly experienced by organisations (as opposed
to individuals). In order to examine if the increasing trend in cybercrimes is observed for both
individual victims and organisations, we present Table 2. While reports of cyber-dependent
crimes against individual persons were higher in May 2020 than May 2019, and online frauds
were substantially higher in May 2020, the frequency of cyber-dependent crimes against
organisations was smaller in May 2020 than 2019 and such difference is not statistically
significant. The apparent increase in police-recorded cybercrimes seems to be experienced
mainly by individuals, whereas the frequency of cyber-dependent crimes reported by
organisations shows different temporal patterns depending on each crime type (i.e., computer
viruses appear to increase slightly, denial of service attacks remain stable, and hacking
attacks decrease).
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Table 2. Cyber-dependent crimes and online frauds suffered by individuals and organisations
in May 2019 and May 2020.
Count in
May 2019
Count in
May 2020
Relative
change (%)
Cyber-dependent crimes
2,300
2,643
14.91***
260
222
-14.62
Online fraud - online
shopping and auctions
5,408
8,220
51.99***
194
250
28.87**
All cybercrimes
7,708
10,863
40.93***
454
472
3.96
***p-value < 0.001, **p-value < 0.01, *p-value < 0.05
Source: own elaboration (data from Action Fraud UK)
However, comparing crime counts between two months may be misleading if it is not
contextualised by comparing these with the overall temporal pattern. Figure 2 shows the
number of offences known to police by crime category (cyber-dependent crimes and online
fraud) and type of victim (individuals and organisations) between May 2019 and May 2020.
Figure 2 clearly indicates that the number of cyber-dependent crimes against individuals
peaked in April 2020 and was markedly high in May 2020 compared to other months. This
distribution is observed for most types of cyber-dependent crimes. The number of cyber-
dependent crimes experienced by organisations appears to decrease during the outbreak.
Similarly, we can observe that the number of frauds associated with online shopping and
auctions peaks in April and May 2020, the months when the strictest lockdown measures were
in place, but in this case, offences against both individual victims and organisations show an
increase.
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Figure 2. Count of cyber-dependent crimes and online frauds (online shopping and auction)
known to police by victim type from May 2019 to May 2020.
Source: own elaboration (data from Action Fraud UK)
Conclusions and word of caution
Our results suggest that reports of cyber-dependent crime and online fraud have increased
during the COVID-19 outbreak, and rates of cybercrimes have been particularly high during
months with the strictest lockdown policies. Lockdown measures and social distancing policies
imposed by governments worldwide to prevent the spread of the virus have caused
unprecedented effects on the way people interact, consume, conduct business, deliver
services and find opportunities for crime (Felson et al., 2020; Payne et al., 2020). The everyday
routine activities of millions of individuals have moved from physical to online environments,
and opportunities for crime appear to have shifted towards cyber-dependent or cyber-enabled
crime. Miró-Llinares and Moneva (2019) argued that the generalisation of Internet use may be
associated with a displacement of crime opportunities from offline to online environments, and
it is plausible that the rapid societal transformations experienced during the outbreak, which
have increased the frequency and variety of activities that users conduct online, have created
new illegitimate opportunity structures online (Hawdon et al., 2020; Lallie et al., 2020).
We have also observed that while there is an increase in police-recorded online shopping
frauds against individuals and organisations, the increase in cyber-dependent crimes has
mainly affected individual victims, and most types of cyber-dependent offences suffered by
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organisations appear to have decreased. We can only speculate about the explanation for this
observation, but it is plausible that opportunities to target organisations online have decreased
given the amount of businesses who have ceased their activity during the outbreak (the Office
for National Statistics [2020b] estimates that around 20% of businesses temporarily or
permanently closed in May 2020). It is also possible, however, that some organisations will
discover that they have suffered cyber-attacks when lockdown measures are lifted and
organisations’ IT services are back online. Further research should investigate if the volume
of cyber-dependent crimes reported by organisations increases after lockdown measures are
relaxed. Future studies should also investigate if some of the social changes experienced
during the outbreak remain after lockdown measures are lifted, thus meaning that the rise in
cybercrime may not be temporary, and establish comparisons between trends in online and
offline offences.
These results, however, are subject to the limitations associated with the use of police-
recorded data, which depend on the victim’s willingness to report crimes to police and may
vary across time and space (Caneppele and Aebi, 2017; Kemp et al., 2020). Estimates
obtained from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2018/19 indicate that 63% of all annual
crimes in which the Internet is related in one form or another are never known to the police
(Office for National Statistics, 2020c). In other words, only 27% of cybercrimes are known to
the police, and it is yet unknown the extent to which the outbreak may have impacted not only
illegitimate opportunity structures, but also the way in which people report crimes to police
services. Future work should look into the effect of COVID-19 on crime reporting patterns.
This paper has presented preliminary analyses about the short-term effect of the COVID-19
outbreak on cybercrime opportunities, and results appear to show a clear increase in
cybercrime incidents, but data used in the paper are subject to limitations and further research
may analyse victimisation surveys to complement data about police-recorded crimes.
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In 2019, a virus infection, COVID-19, traveled across the oceans, gained foothold in many countries, and started infecting the citizens of those countries. Soon, this virus was labeled a "pandemic" by the World Health Organization and was subsequently dubbed the COVID-19 virus. With the virus spreading across the globe, countries started going into lockdowns to curb the spread of the infection. The world came to a halt as people were asked not to leave their homes, offices, and institutions were forcefully closed. This scenario was entirely unexpected for most countries, institutions, and individuals. Amid these lockdowns, people started flocking towards the virtual world. This pandemic showed us that things that were supposed to be conducted physically were now being conducted on-line. Work-from-home (WFH) and study-from-home (SFH) terms and culture came into existence to ensure continuity of services. While the world was upside down and was trying to understand these new dynamics, cybercriminals took advantage of the chaos and carried out the rampant cyber crime on already suffering people and organizations. Cybercriminals known to monetize any recent system changes took this as a golden opportunity and were ready with their new modus operandi during this pandemic. In this survey paper, we have assessed and classified cyber crimes committed during the pandemic across the world. During this period, Malware attacks, Data breaches, Banking frauds, Job frauds, etc., were common. To prevent rampant cyber crimes in such situations, we have also discussed future generation solutions to tackle such issues so that critical systems and procedural checks must be in place.
... Further, the RAT, which has been used to demonstrate the importance of online routine activities in predicting cybercrime risk, also dictates that routine activities are constrained by social and situational conditions (Cohen & Felson, 1979). Such a social or situational condition change is undoubtedly created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced self-and government-imposed restrictions and changes in social domains such as social cohesion, communication, working patterns and mobility (Buil-Gil et al., 2020). Initial evidence suggests that crimes associated with being at home or extended personal contact have increased, such as domestic violence, intrafamilial assaults, nuisance complaints and private parties with illegal drugs (Campedelli et al., 2020;Mohler et al., 2020). ...
... As a result, human interaction, traditional leisure activities, and entertainment have been greatly reduced. Therefore, the world has been forced to seek new ways to connect and entertain themselves (Brathwaite, 2020;Buil-Gil et al., 2020). Market research indicates that since COVID-19 social media usage, online gaming and ecommerce increased dramatically from 0.4 million in January and 1.6 million in February to 20.3 million in March (Balram, 2020;Beech, 2020;Brathwaite, 2020;Hawdon et al., 2020;Koeze & Popper, 2020). ...
... Market research indicates that since COVID-19 social media usage, online gaming and ecommerce increased dramatically from 0.4 million in January and 1.6 million in February to 20.3 million in March (Balram, 2020;Beech, 2020;Brathwaite, 2020;Hawdon et al., 2020;Koeze & Popper, 2020). Increases in cybercrime activity post-COVID-19 have been reported from various sectors (Brathwaite, 2020;Buil-Gil et al., 2020). However, reports by Interpol suggest that there has been a significant target shift from individuals to corporations, governments, and critical infrastructure (INTERPOL General Secretariat, 2020). ...
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The study examined the changes in online routines, cybercrime rates and the applicability of the Routine Activities Theory (RAT) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The RAT proposes that, upon the spatiotemporal convergence of an offender and target, a crime event results from an offender's rational but subjective assessment of a target's suitability and level of guardianship. The study used cybercrime victimisation data collected with a self-administered survey pre-and post-COVID-19 (N = 149 Facebook users of varying ages, ethnicities, and geographic locations within The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago). The change in online routine, cybercrime rate and their relationship to COVID-19 were assessed using Bayesian t-tests,-tests and Propensity Score Matching. Additionally, pre-and post-COVID-19 classification models were compared to identify any change in the utility of the RAT. The study found that there was a general increase in online routine activities particularly those resulting in increased time spent online and accessing pornographic content. Further, the predictors of victimisation changed, and the predictive accuracy of the classification model decreased. However, it was determined that cybercrime victimisation rates decreased post-COVID-19 and that the change had a causal dependence on the implementation of guardianship measures. The study concluded that increased use of technical guardianship measures such as the use of protective software and implementation of browser security protocols led to the decreased rate of victimisation, particularly as cybercrime shifted from interpersonal crimes to techno-centric cybercrimes. However, the study was limited due to the use of chain referral sampling and the fact that a control group could not be used because this was a global 'treatment'. The findings suggest that increased focus by policymakers on targeting hardening and removal measures through the implementation of technical guardianship and cyber-safety awareness and education can help reduce cybercrime victimisation. This study highlights the need for further research into motivations for protective online behaviour and the role of exogenous shocks in changing crime and behavioural patterns. ___________________________________________________________________________ 37 ongoing international projects focusing on the areas of cybercrime, problematic social media use and the effect of exogenous shocks on crime patterns. He also actively seeks to enhance research within the social sciences through the use of alternative statistical methods where appropriate; for example, the use of Bayesian analysis and Rasch measurement. He has over fourteen years of experience working in the area of national security in various specialty areas within Trinidad and Tobago. He is currently one of the directors of Research Analysis Inquiry and Development, a research non-profit entity focused on producing quality multidisciplinary research within the Caribbean. _____________________________________________________________________________________________
... Nonetheless, in contrast to the localised reporting of other crime types, AF collects reports from across the UK. 2 As such, AF data is a key resource, used by police crime analysts to generate national, regional, and force-level trend analysis, to undertake threat assessments, inform crime prevention campaigns and other activities, as well as being a key basis for investigative and local victim-support responses. Additionally, researchers have leveraged AF data, to better understand reported trends, as well as their implications for policy and practice [2,[7][8][9][10]. In particular, this data has an enormous potential for researchers as it provides granular detail on each report and, as the author's previous work demonstrates, allows for the analysis of small geographies and 1 The methodology of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) was changed to account for COVID restrictions, and therefore the results of the replacement Telephone Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW) are not directly comparable to previous years. ...
... In addition, a series of questions were asked to determine the victim's guardianship attitudes and awareness of risk, resulting in a final Public Interventions Model (PIM) assessment score. 7 Despite these improvements however, more is needed to ensure that the data collected is optimised to enable local forces to identify vulnerable and repeat victims. This includes ensuring that all variables relevant to a vulnerability and repeat victimisation analysis are shared, but also that the data collected accurately represents what the aspects they were intended to measure, that analysts and researchers understand what vulnerability and impact scores mean and how they should be used. ...
... This interactive dashboard allows researchers to access several AF data variables and apply filters (e.g., by crime category, region, police force area), to explore the previous 12 months of AF records. Researchers have already been able to harvest this data through the portal and use it to make valuable contributions to the field [7,23]. At the same time, the variables made available are limited and the dashboard not optimised for data download. ...
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IntroductionResearchers and public authorities are increasingly exploring the potential of administrative data to generate new insights. This includes recent work leveraging the opportunities of the crime report data collected by the UK's national reporting centre Action Fraud (AF). However, the quality of these data and its implications for data users have not been systematically analysed. Objectives This paper outlines challenges and opportunities of using AF data in cybercrime and fraud victimisation research and practice and makes recommendations to improve the quality of this dataset. Methods The author has undertaken two studies using samples of AF data pertaining to crime reports within the Welsh police forces, between 2014 and 2020. Quality diagnostic checks, reflections and methodological decisions were considered across each study. These were reviewed, key themes were identified and discussed with data users and a broader group of researchers to finalise the recommendations presented. ResultsThe strengths and limitations of AF data are discussed and grouped into themes, closely aligned with four quality dimensions widely used by statistical authorities. This includes an assessment of 1) the impact of under-reporting and 2) the purpose and rules of crime recording, on the relevance of the data to its users; 3) the accuracy and reliability of the data; 4) the consistency of recording and its impact on coherence and comparability; and 5) the accessibility and timeliness of the data. Conclusions Recommendations are made to improve AF data to generate better quality insights across the dimensions of relevance, accuracy & reliability, coherence & comparability and the accessibility & timeliness of this dataset. Additionally, a data catalogue would enable frontline officers and researchers to make the most of this dataset, harnessing it to produce key insights for crime prevention, investigation, and victim support.
... Despite this highly anticipated trend, only a few studies explore the relationships between offline and online crime. For example, Buil-Gil and colleagues (Buil-Gil et al., 2021) examined whether cybercrime increased due to the displacement of crime opportunities from offline to online during the global COVID-19 pandemic and found a significant increase in cyber dependent crimes (offenses that can only be committed using computer systems or networks) while crimes such as burglary, larceny theft, criminal damage and arson, and violence decreased. Other studies found similar shifts from offline to online platforms (e.g., Collier et al., 2020;Lallie et al., 2020;Payne, 2020). ...
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Criminal offending and victimization often overlap in both the virtual and offline worlds. However, scholars are still unsure how the offending victimization relationship plays out between the online and offline worlds. Using a sample of 2,491 adults, four clusters are discovered: 1) those unlikely to have offended or been victimized, 2) those who had online victimization and offending experiences, 3) Those who have been victimized offline and online, but who are unlikely to have offended, and 4) individuals who were victims both online and offline and offended online. Thus, the offending-victimization overlap may be common, but it is certainly not exclusive.
... This section will discuss several studies related to the before and during the effect of COVID-19 on online services. In one study [17], the COVID-19 outbreak and the widespread lockdown, directly and indirectly, affect many social spheres, including offline and online criminal opportunities. This report gives preliminary findings on the impact of COVID-19 and lockout measures on cybercrime and online fraud in the UK in the short term. ...
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Online services are widely spread, and their use increases day by day. As COVID-19 spread and people spent much time online, fraud scams have risen unexpectedly. Manipulation techniques have become more effective at swindling those lacking basic technological knowledge. Unfortunately, a user needs a quorum. The interest in preventing scammers from obtaining effective quality service has become the most significant obstacle, increasing the variety of daily Internet platforms. This paper is concerned with analyzing purchase data and extracting provided results. In addition, after examining relevant documents presenting research discussing them, the recommendation was made that future work avoids them; this would save a lot of effort, money, and time. This research highlights many problems a person may face in dealing with online institutions and possible solutions to the epidemic through theft operations on the Internet.
... Although neither of these phenomena emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are known to have skyrocketed during the pandemic. In the UK, for instance, not only has the number of cybercriminal activities increased during the pandemic, but also this number was especially high during the period in which the lockdown policies and measures were the strictest [7]. Among the most common categories of cybercrime that were subject to this increase, the authors found frauds related to online shopping and auctions, and hacking of social media and email, targeting, in particular, individual victims. ...
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Fake news has been the focus of debate, especially since the election of Donald Trump (2016), and remains a topic of concern in democratic countries worldwide, given (a) their threat to democratic systems and (b) the difficulty in detecting them. Despite the deployment of sophisticated computational systems to identify fake news, as well as the streamlining of fact-checking methods, appropriate fake news detection mechanisms have not yet been found. In fact, technological approaches are likely to be inefficient, given that fake news are based mostly on partisanship and identity politics, and not necessarily on outright deception. However, as disinformation is inherently expressed linguistically, this is a privileged room for forensic linguistic analysis. This article builds upon a forensic linguistic analysis of fake news pieces published in English and in Portuguese, which were collected since 2019 from acknowledged fake news outlets. The preliminary empirical analysis reveals that fake news pieces employ particular linguistic features, e.g. at the levels of typography, orthography and spelling, and morphosyntax. The systematic identification of these features, which will allow mapping linguistic resources and patterns used in those contexts, contributes to scholarship, not only by enabling a streamlined development of computational detection systems, but more importantly by permitting the forensic linguistics expert to assist criminal investigations and give evidence in court.
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CybercrimeGarima BajajSaurabh TailwalAnupama Mishra is one of the severe issues in today’s world that is increasing day by day due to unawareness of people about the harm it can cause. The main reason against the augmentation of cybercrime is the lack of education or knowledge about the impact it can lead to. Cybercrime can be done against individuals, society, or any organization whether it is private or government. The aim of the paper is to focus on what cybercrime is, its types, related work, and its defensive mechanism. Defensive mechanism against cybercrime includes the ways or measures that how can any individual or any organization protects them against cybercrime. This paper also includes the related work which includes some points about the work which has been done so far on cybercrime.
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Objectives The objective of this study is to test whether recorded rates of violent crime declined in the context of social distancing regulations in Queensland, Australia.MethodsARIMA modeling was used to compute 6-month-ahead forecasts of rates for common assault, serious assault, sexual offenses, and breaches of domestic violence orders. These forecasts (and their 95% confidence intervals) are compared to the observed data for March and April 2020.ResultsBy the end of April, 2020, rates of common, serious, and sexual assault had declined to their lowest level in a number of years. For serious assault and sexual assault, the decline was beyond statistical expectations. The rate at which domestic violence orders were breached remained unchanged.Conclusions Social distancing regulations are temporally correlated with reductions in some violent crimes. Social distancing is likely to have significantly limited interpersonal interaction, especially in locations and at times when violence is usually prevalent.
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The Covid-19 pandemic presents the profoundest public health and economic crisis of our times. The seemingly impossible has happened: borders have closed, nations have locked down, and individuals have socially isolated for the collective good. We find ourselves involved in an unprecedented social experiment. This living laboratory is ripe for sociological analysis. In this introductory article, we provide a broad sociology of Covid-19, paying attention to the production of pandemics and the creation of vulnerabilities. We acknowledge the dystopian elements of the pandemic: it will provide opportunities for ‘disaster capitalists’ to profit, it will enhance certain forms of surveillance, and it will impact some constituencies far more negatively than others (here we pay particular attention to the pandemic’s gendered consequences). Yet there are also resources for hope. We are witnessing altruistic acts the world over, as mutual aid groups form to render assistance where needed. Notions of welfare reform, progressive taxation, nationalisation and universal basic income now seem more politically palatable. Some even predict the imminent demise of neoliberalism. While this may be too hopeful, reactions to the pandemic thus far do at least demonstrate that other ways of living are within our grasp. As Arundhati Roy has said: the virus is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
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Abstract The spread of the coronavirus has led to containment policies in many places, with concomitant shifts in routine activities. Major declines in crime have been reported as a result. However, those declines depend on crime type and may differ by parts of a city and land uses. This paper examines burglary in Detroit, Michigan during the month of March, 2020, a period of considerable change in routine activities. We examine 879 block groups, separating those dominated by residential land use from those with more mixed land use. We divide the month into three periods: pre-containment, transition period, and post-containment. Burglaries increase in block groups with mixed land use, but not blocks dominated by residential land use. The impact of containment policies on burglary clarifies after taking land use into account.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered life, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leading many countries to issue “stay-at-home” orders to contain the virus’s spread. Based on insights from routine activity theory (Cohen & Felson 1979), it is likely that COVID-19 will influence victimization rates as people alter their routines and spend more time at home and less time in public. Yet, the pandemic may affect victimization differently depending on the type of crime as street crimes appear to be decreasing while domestic crimes may be increasing. We consider a third type of crime: cybercrime. Treating the pandemic as a natural experiment, we investigate how the pandemic has affected rates of cybervictimization. We compare pre-pandemic rates of victimization with post-pandemic rates of victimization using datasets designed to track cybercrime. After considering how the pandemic may alter routines and affect cybervictimization, we find that the pandemic has not radically altered cyberroutines nor changed cybervictimization rates. However, a model using routine activity theory to predict cybervictimization offers clear support for the theory’s efficacy both before and after the pandemic. We conclude by considering plausible explanations for our findings.
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Executive Summary This report is written with a Scottish audience in mind, but our conclusions are potentially relevant to changing police practices around the world. COVID-19 and the government response to it have given rise to a small number of novel 'targeted' cybercrime attack vectors (largely centred around messaging and tracing). They have additionally given a COVID-spin to classic scams and vulnerabilities, and are causing a rise in 'volume' cybercrime through more general transformations to the rhythms of people's daily routines as patterns of work, leisure and study have changed as a result of lockdown and social distancing. Paradoxically, greater use of Internet technologies following this global pandemic will lead to an increasing localisation of many aspects of cyber-risk. While investigation is rightly handled by law enforcement agencies and cyber security is now a shared undertaking by government, law enforcement, businesses, organisations and individuals, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed a potential role for local or territorial police forces such as Police Scotland to take leadership in preventative responses to future rises in 'volume' cybercrime, drawing on their unique strengths and capacities to deliver crime prevention at the local level, including engaging with potential victims and offenders. With indications of the increased localism of much cybercrime, there is an increasing demand for the knowledge, skills, and community connections of frontline police officers in cybercrime policing and crime prevention. These officers are uniquely well-placed to meet the challenges of cyber-policing which are arising as a result of the current pandemic.
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The COVID-19 pandemic was a remarkable, unprecedented event which altered the lives of billions of citizens globally resulting in what became commonly referred to as the new-normal in terms of societal norms and the way we live and work. Aside from the extraordinary impact on society and business as a whole, the pandemic generated a set of unique cyber-crime related circumstances which also affected society and business. The increased anxiety caused by the pandemic heightened the likelihood of cyber-attacks succeeding corresponding with an increase in the number and range of cyber-attacks. This paper analyses the COVID-19 pandemic from a cyber-crime perspective and highlights the range of cyber-attacks experienced globally during the pandemic. Cyber-attacks are analysed and considered within the context of key global events to reveal the modus-operandi of cyber-attack campaigns. The analysis shows how following what appeared to be large gaps between the initial outbreak of the pandemic in China and the first COVID-19 related cyber-attack, attacks steadily became much more prevalent to the point that on some days, three or four unique cyber-attacks were being reported. The analysis proceeds to utilise the UK as a case study to demonstrate how cyber-criminals leveraged salient events and governmental announcements to carefully craft and execute cyber-crime campaigns.
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Abstract COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives of persons around the world and social scientists are just beginning to understand its consequences on human behavior. One policy that public health officials put in place to help stop the spread of the virus were stay-at-home/shelter-in-place lockdown-style orders. While designed to protect people from the coronavirus, one potential and unintended consequence of such orders could be an increase in domestic violence – including abuse of partners, elders or children. Stay-at-home orders result in perpetrators and victims being confined in close quarters for long periods of time. In this study, we use data from Dallas, Texas to examine the extent to which a local order was associated with an increase in domestic violence. Our results provide some evidence for a short-term spike in the 2 weeks after the lockdown was instituted but a decrease thereafter. We note that it is difficult to determine just how much the lockdown was the cause of this increase as the domestic violence trend was increasing prior to the order.
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This paper uses the public health framework to address the apparent impact of the coronavirus on the victimization experiences with a specific focus given to those over the age of 50. The bulk of attention is given to fraud victimization, with consideration also given to parent abuse, partner violence, and patient abuse. A review of data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that reports of most types of fraud grew significantly in the first three months of 2020 in comparison to the same time period in 2019. Differences between fraud experiences based on age are considered. Older persons lost much more to fraud than younger persons, and far more in 2020 than 2019. In addition, they reported being targeted more often for certain types of cybercrime (i.e., tech support scams). While devastating to everyone, it is concluded that the coronavirus will potentially have a more significant impact on the financial health of older persons than younger persons. It is concluded that minimizing the consequences of all forms of crimes targeting older adults will be best achieved by using a public health approach.