Generally, traditional crimes such as burglary and motor vehicle theft are declining in the liberal-democratic world. Although these facts would lead people to believe we’re safer, looking at crime through another lens paints a different picture; cyber-enabled crimes such as the sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, fraud and terrorism are on the rise.

In this video, Neil Desai reflects on the realities of digitally-enabled crime and the barriers that police agencies now face when investigating them. Technologies like encryption, cloud computing, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain have all enabled criminals because they provide anonymity and extraterritoriality that outdated laws and technology don’t account for. 

Desai concludes that both technological tools and legal tools must be updated for police and national security agencies to keep the public safe in the context of modern crime.

Transcript

So, by all measures, crime is going down in the Western world. We’re seeing this drop in North America and Western Europe and parts of Asia.

That being said, crime is evolving, and the new areas of crime — those that are digitally enabled — are increasing at rapid paces.

So, we go from the old to the new: we have things like burglary, which are evolving to phishing schemes; we have frauds, which are evolving into very sophisticated online frauds.

The most impacted communities today are vulnerable populations. Populations like children, who are being exploited for financial and sexual gain. Seniors, who are being defrauded of their earnings. Immigrants who are being defrauded and brought to countries for ill purposes.

Technologies like encryption, cloud computing, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain have all enabled criminals because they provide anonymity, they provide extraterritoriality, which weren’t conceived of when we created our laws that govern investigations.

Today, an investigator hits a wall when they try to investigate a crime with a digital piece of evidence because much of that digital evidence sits in the cloud in another jurisdiction. Or they come to a smartphone with chip-level encryption or an app with end-to-end encryption.

These all render traditional investigative tactics null.

Criminals have access to twenty-first century technology, just as all citizens do, at a very low to no cost. Police are saddled with the reality, which is that they have nineteenth-century law enabling their investigations and they’re given twentieth century technologies.

So, both the technological tools and the legal tools have to be updated for police and national security agencies to keep us safe in this context.

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