Law Enforcement’s Response to Cybercrime


The rapid developments in computer connections since early 1990s and the increasing roles of the internet in social, corporate, social and research have come alongside an increased risk of cybercrime. Over the years, information sharing and storage has become easier with the development of information superhighways. However, this has also come alongside a number of risks posed by issues related to cybercrime. Internet communication and computer connectivity has eroded the barriers traditional communication, compressed human concepts of space and time in addition to changing the way business is conducted in all sectors of the global economy. Enormous benefits have been achieved with the convergence of communication and computing as well as the increasing role of digital technology in business. Despite this, it is important to consider these developments as areas with high risks. This is due to overdependence on information assets in business. There has been an increase in the number of crime on the internet, with criminals targeting the information asset for various reasons. Laws have been formulated, enacted and put into force to control cybercrime in various nations, especially in the developed world. In fact, the United Nations general assembly passed a resolution in 2010 that seeks to address cybercrime as a major challenge in the modern world. Enhancing security of information, as well as protecting information infrastructure has increasingly become some of the most critical issues that every nation and organization must undertake. Protecting information and internet users from acts of cybercrime have become an integral part of developing new services and policies throughout the world.

However, it is worth noting that the response to cybercrime is one of the most critical areas in the provision of cyber security. A great concern has emerged over the way in which law enforcement responds to cybercrime. Response to cybercrime becomes complicated with the increase in the rate of technological development, which in turn makes it difficult to control cybercrime. A number of models for responding to cybercrime has been developed, put into action or suggested in practice and theory. However, it is quite evident that there is no single model that has proved effective in responding to and controlling cybercrime. In this research paper, a review of literature has been carried out to determine various aspects of response to cybercrime, with special reference to several models of response that have been developed or suggested over the last two decades. In addition, the paper aims at determining some of the best models applicable in the response to cybercrime. The main purpose of the research paper is to determine the gaps in knowledge and practice, which should be filled with additional research in this field.

Cybercrime and cyber security

In the modern context, cybercrime and cyber security are two important issues that cannot be separated, especially in a world that largely depends on information and interconnectivity as critical assets of development. In fact, the passing of the 2010 UN general assembly resolution on cybercrime and cyber security is a major step in recognizing the need for adequate measures in protecting the internet and its users. In this resolution, efforts geared towards deterring cybercrime have become one of the most advocated areas in cyber security, which in turn implies that development of cyber security strategies must be a part of national strategy in every nation. The resolution further advocates for shared responsibilities in a coordinated action related to efforts in preventing, responding and recovery from incidences of cybercrime. Therefore, it is evident that every nation requires a comprehensive approach in developing cyber security strategies, including education of internet users and establishment of comprehensive technical protection systems.

Law enforcement in deterring cybercrime has become an integral part of these efforts. Within the resolution on cybercrime and cyber security, it is the responsibility of individual countries to protect their internet users through enactment of laws and regulations. These laws must ensure a rapid and effective response to cybercrime in addition to preventing incidences of this vice to happen within their jurisdictions.

Response to cybercrime and Models of response

According to Benner and Clarke (2005), there is need for rethinking on how laws are formulated and enforced if a total security for information and information systems is to be achieved. According to these researchers, cybercrime had rapidly increased in frequency and severity, which means that law enforcement aimed at reducing and preventing cybercrime must be sophisticated and advanced to ensure that every intent user is protected from acts of crime. Moreover, Brenner and Clarke (2005) argue that the current models of response to cybercrime are ineffective in keeping up with the crime that is not only becoming sophisticated, but also with changing tactics. They argues that the current models are largely reactive and police-based, which originates from a real-world urbanization (Wall, 1998). This implies that the models cannot actually protect the society from acts of cybercrime because they apply little knowledge and understanding of computer and internet technology. With this in mind, there is a need for development and application of better and digital-oriented models that will ensure that even the most sophisticated cybercrime attempt is detected and responded to with effectiveness. Brenner and Clarke (2005) proposed one such model in their research on cybercrime in Dayton, Ohio. This model is based on the idea of distributed security. According to Brenner and Clark (2005), the model is a potential supplement of the existing and traditional models of response to cybercrime. For instance, the model makes use of criminal sanctions and fines. It further requires establishment of inductions to computer and internet users in addition to those parties who allow access to their computer networks. The purpose of the inductions is to encourage these individuals to consider including some rational measures that can respond and help in deterring cybercrimes. According to the theory used in developing this model, criminal sanctions are better and more effective than civil liability (Burns, Whitworth & Thompson, 2004).

According to a study by Brenner and Clarke (2004), the efficacy of the traditional approach to enforcing criminal law in response to cybercrime is an important factor that has resulted from the increasing proliferation of computer and internet technology as well as the migration of human activities such as illegal activities from the traditional way into cyberspace. Therefore, it is evident that the traditional methods of response to crime cannot apply in cybercrime for various reasons, but largely because the use of computer in criminal activities is a relatively new but highly sophisticated field (Burns, Whitworth & Thompson, 2004). With this in mind, several researchers in cybercrime have argued that new models of responding to cybercrime must be community-based, where the investigations and law enforcement must include an effective and close collaboration between the private and public sectors. In addition, an effective model of law enforcement must aim at preventing rather than merely reacting to incidences of cybercrime. The model by Brenner and Clarke (2005) fits this definition of an ideal model by a large extent because it takes into consideration the inclusion of private-public cooperation in crime determent. In addition, the model encompasses almost all sectors of the economy, including business, social and government institutions.

According to Broadhurst (2006), cyber-crime, though a relatively new form of crime in the modern world, has its roots in traditional forms of crime. For instance, it involves advancements in methods of crime such as theft of identities, child pornography and fraud. However, this form of crime is dangerous as it has the potential to affect a large number of victims and within a short time. In addition, it involves advancements in the methods of common crime such as damages to private and public property, which in this case involves the use of internet connection to reach out to a large number of computer and information systems and affect them within a short time. To combat this form of crime, Broadhurst has argued that there is need for a review of the processes in which conventional crime prevention techniques and methods are developed. For instance, the researcher argues that there is need for review of cybercrimes through an evaluation of the forms of mutual legal assistance (MLA) that have already been put in place. In fact, Broadhurst suggest this as one model that can effectively help law enforcers respond to cybercrime of any type and severity. The model largely targets the opportunities that cyberspace creates and makes available for cybercriminals to executive their evil on the internet. Broadhurst further argues that this model is applicable in large-scale prevention of cybercrime, including a potential for recommendation by the international community under the UN transnational crime prevention and the Council of European innovative prevention of cybercrime. Moreover, the Interpol, regional law enforcement as well as other bi-laterals and institutions have suggested the model for use as they seek to cooperate with the public and private partners to combat this form of crime.

The method, by Broadhurst, however, is relatively different with the model suggested by Brenner and Clark (2005) because it does not take into account the involvement of crime sanctions against cybercriminals. In addition, this model seems to be leaning more towards involvement of traditional models that are largely police-based rather than being community-based.

Despite the rising number of cases of cybercrime throughout the world, most law-enforcement procedures remain less effective in coping up with this form of crime. It appears that using police-based approach to tackle cybercrime remains one of the most significant factors that hinder the development of an ideal and applicable model. Studies have shown that law enforcement institutions and officers in these institutions, especially the police, investigators and other institutions are well aware of the problems resulting from cybercrime, but it is evident, from research, that they alack both knowledge and resources necessary to tackle this form of crime. For instance, a study by Whitworth (2004) surveyed this phenomenon by collecting the perceptions of the police in various departments in the United States. In particular, this study aimed at determining the degree of preparedness to respond to internet crimes such as fraud, the police perceptions of internet crime, their ability to cooperate in crime response and prevention and finding out how information is disseminated in regards to responding to cybercrimes. According to Whitworth (2004), the results are devastating as they indicate that individuals in all these departments are aware of cybercrimes and believed that it is a problem affecting most people and institutions, but they have little knowledge and resources needed to respond to and prevent cybercrime. In his research, Whitworth argues that there is need for additional research to determine how information dissemination should be enhanced to increase knowledge in cybercrime and cyber security. In addition, he recommends for additional efforts in raining the officers in police and intelligence departments to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to cope with cybercrimes. He further argues that response to cybercrime should be based on all levels of government, including the federal, state and local levels and should be in conjunction with the private sector.

According to Ciardhuáin (2004), cybercrime investigations require a comprehensive model in order to standardize terminologies, to define requirements and to support the efforts geared towards developing new tools and techniques for crime investigators in a digitalized society. The model developed by Ciardhuáin (2004) seems to be among the most advanced attempts to combat cybercrime. This model is quite unique but applicable in that it generalizes and extends the existing models by simply addressing the issues and areas of concern within these older models. One of the uniqueness with this model is that it represents information flow within the process of investigation. In addition, rather than relying heavily on the processing of evidence, the model has taken into account every aspect of crime investigation.

One important area of preventing cybercrime in the modern world is the determination of the needs of law enforcement sectors in a given setting. In fact, the need for information regarding what is required and how this should be provided to crime prevention sectors must be an important tool in developing better and more effective crime prevention models (Lichtenbaum & Schneck, 2002). Moreover, resources and allocation of resources is an issue that should be investigated to determine the type and volume of resources needed and how they should be made available, distributed and shared among the law enforcement sectors in the society. A study by Hinduja (2004) was conducted across Michigan in an effort to empirically determine the needs of local and state law enforcers in relation to cybercrime. The researcher attempted to assess the frequent types of cybercrime, the extent and type of training provided and the specific type of instructions provided at the specific departments. The results indicated that there was a dire need for education and training in all departments because there were various flaws and weaknesses with the existing ones. In addition, it was found that there was need for coordinated efforts to develop better and more effective formal instructions that will provide the officers with knowledge and skills to deal with cybercrimes.

Technical complexity of cybercrime is one of the factors that act as an obstacle to the efforts of investigating cybercrime, and therefore, it is a barrier to effective law enforcement to control cybercrime. This complexity further means that investigations must also be complex and must involve all areas of cybercrime, from fraud to stalking and other forms of crime on the internet and computers. A study by Hunton (2010) seems to address these issues, especially in terms of technical complexity of cybercrime and cybercrime investigations. According to Hunton (2011), research indicates that cybercrime investigation must proceed through a laborious process that involves both basic and advanced stages of crime investigation. He argues that cybercrime investigation, unlike investigations into other forms of crime, involves more than just examining low-technology or some digital evidence recovery (Swire, 2009). According to him, cybercrime investigation must include specific and wide range of technical as well as non-technical disciplines and skills for investigations. With this information, Hunton developed a framework for cybercrime investigations, whose main difference with other frameworks and models is based on its technicality and use of procedures and principles of both the mainstream law enforcement and digital technology. Although this framework is different from the model by Brenner and Clarke (2005), it is similar with other models because it takes into account the technical disparities that face most law enforcement departments and individuals. However, the model may not be effective in the end because it fails to include mutual understanding and cooperation between various partners. Unlike the model by Brenner and Clarke (2005), this model seems to be more of a police-based framework rather than being private-public cooperation in reducing and dealing with cybercrime.

The complexity and difficulty in dealing with cybercrime, unlike other forms of crime, is a product of poor legal interpretation of cybercrime, in addition to poor cyberspace laws. Enforcing such law thereof re becomes quite difficult. A study by Katyal (2003) highlights the concepts of real space crime prevention by employing architectural concepts in dealing with cybercrime. Katyal (2003) that there is need for a digital architecture to help in cybercrime prevention. Such a framework should be a product of collaboration between computer architectures, designers and law experts. In fact, he argues that the poor or no collaboration between these experts is the cause of the current difficulties in preventing cybercrime (Miquelson-Weismann, 2005). According to this argument, a good understanding of digital architecture and target prevention has the potential to illustrate the reasons why firewalls at the user end in a cyberspace can guarantee security that bundling security into such architecture on the net would.

Apart from poor collaboration between law enforcers, software developers and the policing departments, there is a poor cooperation between the police and the judicial system. For instance, Sommers (2004) has argued that one problem facing cybercrime prevention and law enforcement in the United Kingdom is overdependence between the police and the judicial system. He argues that the judiciary expects the police to bear the biggest responsibility in dealing with cybercrime, yet the police expect both the judiciary and the legislature to be on the forefront in dealing with this form of crime (Lichtenbaum & Schneck, 2002). It therefore becomes evident that developing a new and effective approach to enforce laws against cybercrime is a difficult task because none of these three organs is willing to take the biggest responsibility. In addition, each organ expect too much from the others and all fail to make initiatives of cooperating in coming up with new models or frameworks for dealing with this form of crime (Moitra, 2005). Although this problem was detected and studied in the United Kingdom, it is worth noting that the problem is universal and as long as there is little collaboration between these organs of the government in various nations, a comprehensive way of ensuring cyber security in the world will not be achieved in the near future. In addition, it is evident that this problem not only affects individual governments, but also the international community. For instance, the UN resolution considered the collaboration between organs of the government as an important factor in establishing effective cyber security in each nation, yet most governments are either not paying much attention to this or are not willing to implement laws and regulations enhancing cooperation between its organs in dealing with cybercrime.


From this discussion, it is evident that cybercrime is a local, national and international issue that needs immediate attention. The complexity of internet technology, the sophisticated nature of computer and internet architecture and increasing technological dynamism are the main factor that contribute to the complex and sophisticated nature of cybercrime. Cybercriminals take the advantage of this complexity to execute their evils on the internet, yet the law enforcement sector is yet to come up with a model that can effectively deal with these criminals. In addition, it is worth noting that despite the large number of models proposed for dealing with cybercrime, an absolute framework is yet to be realized. Meanwhile, cybercrime will remain a major global issue with the capacity to cause a crisis in all sectors.


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