The world of criminality doesn’t just stop at face to face contact - computer to computer crime is becoming increasingly significant. Meet the team whose primary focus is cybercrime.
For a number of years, we have seen crimes being committed without any direct face to face contact with victims – as the prevalence of technology has increased so has the act of preying on technological vulnerabilities increased.
This is commonly known as cybercrime. Cybercrime, also called computer crime, is the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child sexual abuse material and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy.
In Leicestershire Police there is a small team of officers who specifically deal with such crimes.
Detective Sergeant Lee Taylor leads that team in the digital hub, he said: “Cybercrime is an umbrella term for different types of crimes which either take place online or where technology is a means and/or target for the attack.
“It is one of the fastest growing criminal activities across the world, and can affect both individuals and businesses.”
The cybercrime team (pictured) get in excess of 50 reports a month either directly from victims or via Action Fraud where individuals or a business have been targeted by cyber criminals – figures from national recording suggest this is the tip of the iceberg for all cybercrime occurring across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
(Caption - Left to right DS Lee Taylor, DC Aaron Horn, DC Matt Garside and DC Anthony Jones)
With a number of those incidents not being reported as victims are not sure what we might be able to do to help them or that we can investigate this type of crime.
Not all the reports relate to fraudulent activity, where the purpose is to obtain large sums of money, some of the reports the team deal with may relate to social media accounts being hacked to steal identities or where individuals have been targeted within a domestic situation.
The crimes can be seen as people stealing a few passwords, causing a few computers to break, messaging people online. But the truth is that these crimes cause incredible distress to people who lose their Facebook, Instagram, email accounts. And from there their identities might be used to commit further offences of fraud or theft. Their accounts can sometimes be used to share offensive images or abusive messages.
Businesses suffer from hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage every year – on top of the millions extorted from attacked businesses through ransom demands. Small businesses collapse under the costs of repairing the damage caused, or through losing their online presence. Local authorities could be denied access to records to help them protect vulnerable people across the county.
In some cases, school ransomware has been attacked, with suspects using the pressure of preventing education to children to force the educational authority to pay.
Recently the team managed to secure their first conviction for an individual who had gained access to the IT systems of two different organisations – a school in Market Harborough and an IT company – both places where he had previously worked.
Last year 29-year-old Adam Georgeson – of Robin Lane in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire – made malicious and unauthorised actions to the systems.
The Cybercrime team investigated that report which led them to identify that Georgeson’s actions were as a result of his resentment to his previous employers where he had lost his job.
DS Taylor added: “Georgeson’s actions were not fuelled by any financial gain but to cause unnecessary disruption to his former employers by amending computer records.
"Not only that – but the parents who allowed their children to use their laptops to access school systems found their own devices attacked and destroyed.
“This is just one example of the types of reports we deal with in the team. We offer a support role to various departments within the force and sometimes our work can overlap with other units such as Economic Crime and the Domestic Abuse team.
“We have assisted in cases where individuals have been the victims of stalking by a current or former partner – where their social media accounts have been hacked to track the victim’s movements and interactions with others. We have the technology to be able to assist by interrogating systems and identifying offenders.
“In one case, when a college in Leicestershire was the victim of a ransomware attack, we were able to identify how the attack took place, show where the attack originated from and support them with a recovery strategy with help from the East Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre.
“When a local accountancy firm were experiencing some issues with their network we identified the presence of a prolific cyber-criminal and prevented fraud offences. We have also supported a number of investigators during complex investigations where crimes were being committed using digital devices and secured crypto assets.
“Some of our works includes delivering cyber security advice to partner agencies across the city and county through the Local Resilience Forums Cyber working group.
“The team also has a role in preventing young people from using the computer skills in the wrong way. Officers visits schools and colleges to educate youngsters on the dangers of cybercrime and on some occasions if a young person has been on the periphery of offending, instead of criminalising them, we work with other organisations to ensure those skills are put to better use.
“It’s a very complex area of work and the detectives within the team are all highly skilled individuals with a wealth of knowledge in this field. The training and experience the Cyber Crime unit saw that, last year, a member of the cybercrime team unit was nominated for a national cyber investigator of the year award, coming runner-up.
“There is very limited knowledge of this amongst the public and many are not aware of the work that we do, or the efficacy of Leicestershire Police to investigate cyber-attacks. But we have the skills and the determination to identify those committing high tech crime, convinced they are hidden from those who might pursue them.
“We would advise anyone whose systems have been targeted through a computer and unauthorised access has been gained to commit offences that you have been a victim of crime. Please report it.”
If the offence is happening now then ring 999 or 101, if it’s happened over some time and you are not currently experiencing any direct contact then you can report it via the Action Fraud website.