The number of crimes which have an online or ‘cyber’ element has risen by 215%, according to a board-level report compiled by Police Scotland.

Since last year, the number of crimes which are defined as either ‘cyber-dependent’ or ‘cyber-enabled’ has more than tripled from 1,426 to 4,495. The Policing Performance report was presented to the Scottish Police Authority at the end of November and the cybercrime figures compared the period April to September 2018/19 to April to September 2019/2020.

The report contains details of 12 objectives outlined by Police Scotland, which highlights a focus on public safety and wellbeing, including a note to ‘improve our understanding of, and response to, the threat from cybercrime’.

According to its own definition of what constitutes a cybercrime, the report notes:

‘Cybercrime is made up of two categories:

  • Cyber-Dependent Crime – the commission or attempted commission of crime in order to compromise a computer device, network or system where the devices are both the tool for committing the crime and the target of the crime. A computer includes a laptop, smart phone, tablet, smart TV or other internet enabled device.
  • Cyber-Enabled Crime – the commission or attempted commission of traditional crimes such as theft, fraud, extortion, threats etc. using the internet, or by otherwise accessing a computer system, device or network.’

Among criminal activities highlighted in the report, in growth terms, were sexual offences and serious organised crime. The report states: “The increasing use of technology by Serious Organised Crime Groups (SOCGs) to advance their criminal enterprises is enhancing their profitability, networks and criminal diversity. This includes the use of encryption and technical specialists in roles including IT, legal, financial and counter surveillance, professionalising criminal operations and increasing the complexity of opportunities for law enforcement for detection and disruption.”

In terms of sexual offences in Scotland, the internet was used as a means to commit 20% of all recorded sexual crime in 2016/17. In the same period this year, 51% of other sexual crimes, indecent communications and images, were cyber-enabled, the report adds. The report did however highlight an overall decline in the volume of ransomware attacks – which is assessed as the top cybercrime threat according to Europol due to its profitability for serious crime gangs.

Internally, officers are also being encouraged to identify and appropriately mark incidents, crimes and intelligence with a cyber marker under the ‘Tag it, Mark it, Log it’ campaign, with the report noting: “This will encourage officers to continue to accurately record cyber markers on incident and crime reports and help inform the true growth in demand.”

The report outlines the advance of new technologies as being both a threat and opportunity, in terms of how it responds to the changing landscape of crime, indicating it is important that ‘law enforcement make full and appropriate use of technology to keep people safe.’

Last year, the Scottish Police Authority approved a 10-year £244m plan to transform Police Scotland’s IT capabilities and develop a new national infrastructure fit for 21st century policing.

The force is currently looking to develop its second Cybercrime Strategic Assessment to identify intelligence requirements and improve demand assessment, undergoing a procurement exercise to boost cyber and digital forensics training and reviewing its cyber resilience capabilities.

Police Scotland is currently working with a number of tech companies to boost its mobile working capabilities including with Motorola’s Pronto digital policing application software. The company announced this week that it would be integrating its Edesix body-worn cameras into Pronto via the its digital evidence management system, CommandCentral Vault. It has also trialed a system that provides officers access to driver’s license images.