As the number of internet users in the world has quadrupled over a decade – from 500 million in 2001 to over 2 billion in 2010 – society has become more connected than ever. But with the proliferation of social networking, an entirely new environment for criminal and terrorist activity has emerged.
Criminals have new avenues to abuse and harass their victims, children are at risk of online predators, and the financial security of individuals and businesses is threatened. This has brought about new challenges facing law enforcement include investigating a broad variety of cybercrimes and threats by criminals, hacktivists, terrorists, and state actors. Law enforcement must also build secure and resilient information systems to support their operations and address the exponential growth in digital evidence and forensic investigations.
Technology can be misused by abusers and perpetrators in crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and trafficking. Stalkers are increasingly using a variety of computer technologies to harass, terrify, intimidate, coerce, and monitor former and current intimate partners. Additionally, findings from a National Institute of Justice-funded study showed that more than a quarter of youth in a relationship reported experiencing some form of cyber dating abuse victimization in the prior year.
Children using technology present unique risks and challenges because of their natural characteristics: innocence, curiosity, desire for independence, and fear of punishment. Since the nature of the internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick other users. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has seen a significant increase in sextortion activity (the coercion of victims into providing sexually explicit images/videos of themselves) against children who use the Internet. However, anyone can become a victim.
Additionally, law enforcement is increasingly confronted with cyberbullying complaints due to the prevalence of technology used by children and new laws addressing these types of incidents. Some cyberbullying incidents may warrant criminal action while others may not.
For individuals and business owners, the internet can give identity thieves, hackers, and scammers online access to computer, financial and personal information, and more. A quick, effective response to cyber incidents can prove critical to minimizing the resulting harm and expediting recovery. The best time to plan such a response is now, before an incident occurs.
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