The Future of Cyber Criminality - Dr Mary Aiken

Is there a ‘tsunami of criminality’ heading our way?

​If you have children, stop what you are doing and pick up a copy of The Cyber Effect, a fascinating book that explores how human behaviour changes online. Mary Aiken is an expert in forensic cyberpsychology, a new discipline that combines psychology, criminology and technology – The Times
This is the second part of a two-part blog written by Dr Aiken for the College of Policing newsletter. You can read part one our website.
A colleague of mine Michael Moran Associate Director of INTERPOL told me recently that we are facing a 'tsunami of criminality' coming at us down the line, online – sadly I would have to agree.
In my book 'The Cyber Effect' I discuss the evolution of forensic aspects of cyber criminality from drug and human trafficking online, to the six-fold increase in rape and serious sexual assault associated with online dating (recently reported by the NCA). I introduce theoretical constructs such as 'cyber migration' which describes how negative online behaviour such as hate speech, racism and misogyny have migrated into the real world.
I point to the future of cyber criminality in the form of 'online syndication,' the mathematics of behaviour in an age of technology.
It works like this: If I'm a sex offender in a small town in Inverness and you are a sex offender in Plymouth, what are the chances of us meeting each other in the real world?  This used to be capped or bound by the laws of probability and domain. In other words, it was restricted by chance and proximity.
Two sex offenders who lived so far away from each other had very little if any chance of ever meeting.
Now that has changed - not just for sex offenders, but for everyone from cybercriminals to hackers.
Under the cover of anonymity, fuelled by online disinhibition, these groups can easily syndicate to socialise, normalise, and facilitate their interests.
I hope I'm wrong, but I believe this cyber effect could result in a surge in deviant and criminal behaviour in the general population.
In 2016 NATO declared cyberspace as a 'domain of operations' - a domain of warfare. More importantly, from a societal perspective perhaps it is an environment that now requires a declaration of governance.
If we think about cyberspace as a continuum, on the far left we have the idealists, the keyboard warriors, the early adopters, philosophers who feel passionately about the freedom of the Internet and don't want that marred or weighed down with regulation and governance.
On the other end of the continuum, you have the tech industry with its own pragmatic vision of freedom of the Net—one that is driven by a desire for profit, and worries that governance costs money and that restrictions impact the bottom line.
These two groups, with their opposing motives, are somehow strategically aligned in cyberspace, and holding firm.
The rest of us, and our children—the 99.9 percent—get to live somewhere in the middle, between these vested interests.
As a society, when did we get a chance to voice our opinion?
Billions of us now use technology almost the way we breathe air and drink water.
It is an integral part of our social, professional, and personal lives. We depend on it for our livelihoods and lifestyle, for our utilities, our networking, our educations.
But at the same time, we have little or no say about this new frontier- cyberspace, where we are all living and spending so much of our lives.
I make no apology for being pro-social order in cyberspace, great societies are judged not just by how they serve the strongest, but by how they protect the weakest and most vulnerable.
We need to collectively focus on creating the best possible cyber society.
A new approach is required, one that actively considers the profound impact of technology on humans, particularly the developing child; that promotes technological innovation in addressing criminal behaviour; that encourages ethical technologies - particularly those that target children; that recognises evolving aspects of cyber criminality and victimology, and that seeks to replicate some semblance of the social order we enjoy in the real world.
Policing bodies worldwide have to work out where on the spectrum of total order and total disorder they position their activities – in cyberspace we are heading towards disorder.

The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behaviour Changes Online by Mary Aiken, £20

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