Vol. 79, No. 3Editorial message

Police officer carrying hard case.

Getting cyber smart

Technical know-how and solid investigation skills make a formidable foe for online criminals. Credit: Serge Gouin, RCMP


The recent global ransomware cyberattack that affected hundreds of thousands of victims as this issue was being finalized highlights what police agencies already know: cybercrimes are increasing in number and escalating in severity.

In 2015, the RCMP launched its cybercrime strategy to fight this threat with a renewed focus on reducing the risk, impact and victimization of cybercrime across Canada.

In this issue, we explore how the RCMP is policing to keep up in this digital era.

For our cover story, Deidre Seiden follows the RCMP's Cybercrime Investigative Team in Ottawa as it advances an investigation it's been dissecting for months. Seiden describes how this new unit works and fits into the bigger picture, nationally and abroad.

Investigations are only as good as the intelligence that informs them. The RCMP's National Intelligence Coordination Centre created a cyber-intelligence team to gather information and identify cyber-related operational opportunities for investigative teams. The team targets hackers and the digital trail they leave behind.

Seiden also examines the digital forensics side of cybercrime and learns how members of the Technological Crime Units across Canada support these investigations by seizing and processing digital evidence. Their expertise is critical when technology can change in the blink of an eye.

And as technology becomes so readily accessible to more people, including criminals, demand for specialty tech units rises exponentially. One way to manage the workload is through digital field triage, a program developed by the RCMP in British Columbia. The program trains non-specialists to determine if a digital device has evidence on it before it's sent for time-consuming analysis. Field triage is getting meaningful evidence into the hands of investigators more quickly.

While not everyone can be a techie, front-line officers need to keep up with the technology, and the laws that govern it. Amelia Thatcher writes about the Cybercrime Investigations Workshop in Nova Scotia — a crash course in Internet and technology crimes. The one-day workshop gives officers the knowledge and step-by-step tools they need when faced with a cyber or technical case.

Identifying child exploitation material and stopping online predators is a monumental task and, when it comes to active abuse, prompt action is critical.

The RCMP is turning to artificial intelligence technology to scan millions of unknown photos and find the ones with the highest probability of being illicit — those digital needles in a haystack. The algorithm can rapidly eliminate images that aren't exploitative and move the most likely to the top of this list. This not only saves time, but reduces officers' exposure to graphic content.

While technology is being developed to take over some tedious and difficult tasks, other methods still rely on the human touch. Thatcher also speaks to Cpl. Jared Clarke, an expert in covert communication, who poses as potential victims or online abusers. His intervention has saved dozens of young victims from further abuse.

This issue isn't just about keeping up with society's rapid migration online. It's about policing smarter — in a world in which almost everything can be done through a computer or a smartphone.

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