CYBER CRIME RISES

Recently, the UK, Netherlands and the US have all made claims suggesting they have been the victims of hacking at the hands of Russian spies, following several sizeable global cyber-attacks. Several anti-doping agencies were targeted, for example, and these attacks were said to be in retaliation for bans on Russian athletes accused of utilising performance enhancing drugs.

The U.S has indicted 7 individuals for cyber-crime offences since July 2018. This is just one of several recent stories emphasising not only cyber-crime’s ongoing prevalence, but, more interestingly, an apparent attitude shift by prosecuting authorities. There is a growing willingness globally to investigate and prosecute cyber-criminals.

The UK police have been criticised for failing to cope with the sheer scale and sophistication of this criminality. In response, the police have spent over £1m training officers in cyber-security in the last year. The Office for National Statistics stated that “fraud and computer misuse show that this type of crime is more prevalent than many traditional crimes, with data for the year ending September 2017 showing individuals to be 10 times more likely to be a victim of fraud and computer misuse than a victim of theft from the person and 35 times more likely than robbery”.

Whilst headlines tend to focus on large scale attacks on corporations and institutions, “cyber-crime” as a concept is a very broad one; often unsophisticated and small-scale. Digital devices have been used for years in an ever-growing range of criminality and cyber-crime routinely operates on even the most intimate of levels.  Regardless of the scale or sophistication of the crime, the ramifications can have devastating effects on a person targeted.

A huge range of offences could arguably be categorised as “cyber crime”.  “Sextortion” is a relatively recent cyber scam receiving media attention, where offenders use blackmail against their targets by threatening to publish details of their pornographic activities unless they pay a ransom, usually demanded in bitcoin. There are the more common “traditional” offences such as fraud by false representation, identity theft, malicious communications, and multiple sexual offences, right through to more specialised and organised offending through to the commission of terrorism offences, breaches of the Data Protection Act, and those committed under the Computer Misuse Act; all of which can conceivably fall under the cyber-crime umbrella.

Technology-based offending is only going to increase. The seizure and examination of devices purportedly linked to cyber-crime become evidentially pivotal, and, unsurprisingly, the potential for errors grow, through genuine mistake or, sadly, incompetence.  If the authorities continue to take a more proactive approach to prosecuting cyber-criminals, the need for care and scrutiny in the examination of technological evidence seized will be paramount in ensuring not only parity between the prosecution and defence, but also in ensuring those charged have a fair trial.

At Reeds, we frequently utilise the services of specialist forensic scientists in cases where technology is alleged to be crucial, or where we can identify from the evidence that the employment of forensic techniques may assist in casting doubt on the prosecution case or corroborating ours.  Our defence lawyers frequently deal with cases of the utmost seriousness and complexity. If you are facing an investigation or prosecution where your phone, laptop, sat nav or any other technological device has been seized, we can help.  For more information please contact us at info@reeds.co.uk or call 0333 2407373.

Abigail Ashford is a Senior Solicitor at our London office

Abigail Ashford