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Understanding the drivers of cybercriminality, and new methods to prevent, investigate and mitigate cybercriminal behaviour

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Understanding what drives cybercriminal behaviours

Combating cybercrime starts with understanding the technical and human factors that drive cybercriminal behaviour – especially in young people.

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Just as connectivity has become constant, so too has the cybersecurity threat. In fact, new criminal platforms and a booming cybercrime economy have reportedly resulted in nearly EUR 1.5 trillion in illicit profits acquired, laundered, spent and reinvested by cybercriminals. “Younger generations, who tend to be very digitally savvy, can be more complacent about cybersecurity,” says David Wright, founder & chief research officer at Trilateral Research. “But more than just victims, this generation is also at an increased risk of entering into a life of cybercrime.” According to Wright, effectively combating cybercrime starts with understanding the technical and human factors that drive cybercriminal behaviours – which is exactly what the EU-funded CC-DRIVER project set out to do. “In addition to understanding the drivers of cybercriminality, this project also researched methods to prevent, investigate and mitigate cybercriminal behaviour and made recommendations on assessing the socio-economic impact of cybercrime,” adds Wright, who served as the project coordinator and who was recently awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by Coventry University.

Law enforcement at the centre

Spanning such fields as psychology, criminology, anthropology, neurobiology and cyberpsychology, the multidisciplinary CC-DRIVER project produced more than 40 deliverables – many of which stand to benefit law enforcement agencies (LEAs). “Being on the front lines of the fight against cybercrime, it was essential that LEAs be at the centre of this project,” explains Wright. LEAs led a working group dedicated to brainstorming issues related to cybercrime, drafting best practices amongst LEAs, and making recommendations on how to best allocate often scarce resources.

Youth and cybercriminality

To better understand their behaviour, attitude and proclivity towards cybercrime, the project surveyed 8 000 young people from eight EU countries. What researchers found was that 46 % of those surveyed said they had already committed some form of cybercrime, whether that be cyberbullying, sexting or cyberstalking. Many also indicated having been a victim of such cybercrimes, often carried out by an older perpetrator. The findings were shared with Europol, European Safer Internet Centres (Insafe) and the Better Internet for Kids platform.

Assessing vulnerability to cybercrime

The project’s partners also created a unique online questionnaire that young people and the organisations that serve them can use to assess their vulnerability to cybercrime. “This youth self-assessment metric was designed to serve multiple purposes,” notes Wright. “It can be used as an educational tool, to gauge one’s technical talent, and to prompt alternative pathways for youth engagement and using their technical skills.” In conjunction with the self-assessment metric, the project created a checklist that parents, caregivers and educators can use to better understand the most common routes into cybercriminality. These resources are now available at all Insafe centres.

Collaboration that produces results

These are just a few of the results to come out of the project. Many others can be found via the project’s website. “Thanks to the excellent collaboration amongst our partners, the CC-DRIVER project produced many results on the human and technical drivers of cybercrime that will continue to be of value to LEAs, academics and policymakers,” concludes Wright. “We hope the European Commission and the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) will take up our recommendations to better address this critical challenge.”


CC-DRIVER, cybersecurity, cybercrime, cybercriminals, criminology, law enforcement agencies, cyberbullying, Europol, Insafe, Better Internet for Kids, ENISA

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