Cybercrime in focus
The widespread use of the internet has brought with it a raft of traditional and new crimes that can now be committed in cyberspace.
These cybercrimes range from fraud, hacking, money laundering and theft, through to cyberstalking, cyberbullying, identity theft, child sexual exploitation and child grooming. The extent of cybercrime in Australia is difficult to quantify as it is generally underreported.
However, given that the average Australian household owns a PC or laptop or both (1.61 computers per household in 2009 – Australian Digital Atlas, 2009) the opportunity for cybercrime to occur at home in this country is considerable.
Business is also at risk with 14 per cent of Australian businesses experiencing one or more incidents of cybercrime in 2006-07 (Australian Business Assessment of Computer User Safety survey, 2009).
How it happens
Fraudsters seize on many opportunities made possible by the internet to reach and exploit unwitting victims. They have developed countless and often elaborate ways to trap people and steal their money, private information and even their identity (see SCAMwatch). Common scams include ‘phishing’ when a scammer pretends to be a genuine enterprise and convinces a person to hand over private or financial information, which they then exploit. Scammers also use the internet to lure individuals into paying an advance or up-front fee for an object or service, which then never eventuates. Money lost through scams is unlikely to be recovered.
Hackers focus more on the computer systems themselves than the users. They are able to exploit computer systems using vulnerable computers for example, to obtain personal or commercial information from the system itself. By hacking email, social networking sites and online trading sites, hackers may access credit card details, steal individual identities or access personal information.
Children using websites, chatrooms and social networking sites may be exposed to crimes such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and cybergrooming. A study by Monash University found that 72 per cent of surveyed Australian middle school students had experienced unwanted or unpleasant contact by strangers on their social networking profile. Illegal material, such as photos that exploit children, is also widely distributed online.
The AIC continues to research cybercrime. Its findings are used to inform policy makers, feed into the development of crime prevention programs, raise awareness for potential victims, assist law enforcement agencies when allocating their resources, and contribute to the development of improved security.
Current cybercrime projects include:
Each year, the AIC surveys computer users online to determine the nature and extent of their experience of consumer scams. This forms part of the annual awareness-raising activities of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce.
Online Child Exploitation
A project exploring the relationship between use of online child exploitation material, use of internet-enabled technologies to procure children, and actual sexual assault. The AIC and University of Canberra were recently awarded a Criminology Research Grant for this research.
Misuse of ICT in the Public Sector, nature and extent
This project examines the nature and extent of internal misuse of ICT within Australian government agencies. It draws on the findings of the Fraud against the Commonwealth Surveys conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 reporting periods.
Events & publications
Bringing the world home: Lessons learnt in the prevention and support of online fraud victimisation
31 May 2012, Dr Cassandra Cross, Queensland Police Service
Investigating Cyber Crime from an FBI Perspective
28 March 2012, William W. Blevins
Recent AIC published research spans a broad range of cybercrime issues, from threats to the financial and insurance industries, to cloud computing and child grooming.
Latest publications include:
- Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce: Results of the 2012 online consumer fraud survey
17 June 2013
- Cloud computing for small business: Criminal and security threats and prevention measures
29 May 2013
- Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce: Results of the 2010 and 2011 online consumer fraud surveys
22 August 2012
- Consumer scams-2010 and 2011
20 March 2012
- Scam delivery methods 2007 to 2011
20 March 2012
- Computer security threats faced by small businesses in Australia
Risk factors for advance fee fraud victimisation
Cyber threat landscape faced by financial and insurance industry
Online interactions involving suspected paedophiles who engage male children
Cloud computing: Challenges and future directions
Covert and cyber bullying
Crime risks of three-dimensional virtual environments