An Inspection of how the Criminal Justice System deals with Cyber Crime in Northern Ireland

Publication: 21/06/17
Cyber Crime
'Better understanding of threat and challenge posed by cyber crime needed ' says Chief Inspector

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been urged to conduct a comprehensive analysis of cyber crime in Northern Ireland to better understand the extent of this type of offending and the challenges it will present for policing.

The  recommendation was made by Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland today (21 June 2017) following the publication of a report on how the criminal justice system deals with cyber crime in Northern Ireland.
"Cyber crime is a relatively new phenomenon which has grown rapidly in recent years. As more and more people choose to shop, communicate and carry out their day-to-day activities online, criminals have adapted their offending to keep pace with the continual advances in digital technology," said Mr McGuigan.
"More crime is now committed in the online world than by traditional methods, therefore this fast developing area presents an established threat to businesses and people living in our local communities on a scale which is of a different magnitude to traditional crime types. It can be anonymous and borderless offering criminals high reward for relatively low risk," he said.
The inspection found the PSNI was highly engaged in developing its cyber crime capacity locally, nationally and internationally.  The formation of a Cyber Crime Centre had provided the PSNI with specialist technical and forensic skills to investigate cyber dependent crime, although the level of demand for digital forensic investigations had led to delays.
"We welcome the work the police have undertaken to date however, as the vast majority of cyber crime currently goes unreported, there is a need for the PSNI in collaboration with its justice, business and community partners, to work to address this issue. It must also take steps to ensure those cyber crimes which are reported to the police are appropriately recorded and the needs of victims met. 
"A comprehensive analysis of cyber crime will help gather this information and inform the police response to this rapidly growing area, therefore we have recommended the PSNI should priortise this work and complete it within the next six months," said Mr McGuigan.
The inspection report found that police officers had developed excellent relationships with other law enforcement partners alongside business and academia to investigate cyber crime and take complex cases forward for prosecution.
Front line police officers however needed to have a greater awareness of how to investigate cyber enabled crime and access to the technical support required to bring offenders to justice.
Inspectors also suggest there is a need for online access for local policing officers to be reviewed and training in the use of the internet for investigative purposes extended to support and meet the demands of day-to-day police work. 
The report recommends the PSNI carry out a comprehensive review of training provided to officers to address the current and future demands to investigate cyber crime that will be placed on the police and respond to existing training gaps.
Mr McGuigan indicated that as with traditional crime, there was a need for individuals and businesses to do more to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of the threat posed by cyber crime.
"For many people it is only when they become a victim of cyber fraud, their details are shared and exploited without consent or their children are targeted online, that the risks associated with the use of digital technology become fully appreciated or understood," said the Chief Inspector.
"This inspection has shown there is an onus on everyone to take steps to increase their online security and own awareness of cyber crime to protect themselves from this threat.
"Partnership working between the police and other key stakeholders is critical to the ensuring the PSNI is successful if preventing and reducing crime in this area.
"We have therefore recommended the Department of Justice in consultation with the PSNI should ensure the Cyber Strategy for Northern Ireland contains a comprehensive approach to addressing public concern and increase awareness and understanding by the public and business community about cyber crime and internet security," he concluded.