Cyber crime in Scotland: evidence review

A review of the evidence around the scale and nature of cyber crime affecting individuals and businesses in Scotland.

4. Cyber-crime Offenders

Despite increasing amounts of literature on cyber-criminals, there is very limited data currently available about the perpetrators of cyber-crime in Scotland. Indeed, the very notion that cyber-crimes can be committed remotely creates new opportunities for criminality, meaning (in theory) people can be victimised by criminals in other jurisdictions, and conversely criminals based in Scotland can commit offences against individuals and organisations in other countries.

Whilst there is no apparent Scottish evidence on the extent to which different kinds of individuals and groups account for cyber-crime offences, the National Crime Agency ( NCA) assess that the most advanced and serious cyber-crime threat to the UK is the direct or indirect result of activity by a few hundred international criminals typically operating in organised groups [141] . Such groups are highly skilled, sophisticated and competent, and target both individuals and businesses. The NCA also points to a significant number of technically competent cyber criminals being based in the UK.

In spite of the presence of these international groups and technically competent individuals, the NCA asserts that the majority of offenders have relatively low technical abilities, with their attacks often enabled by easy access to bespoke tools, software and expertise online. They believe the availability of such resources may be utilised by young people in particular. For instance, in 2015 analysis of investigations involving the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit found the average age of suspects to be 17 [142] .

Returning to evidence gaps, the premise that the majority of cyber-related incidents may go unreported to the police means that rather than offenders being reported and pursued as may be expected for 'traditional' crimes, much of the current knowledge about perpetrators of cyber-crime is derived from the outcomes of pro-active enforcement and investigative work by relevant justice organisations.

Whilst it may be possible to consider what recorded crime records are able to tell us about cyber-related offending, this is not possible on a large-scale given the way the data is currently held and crimes where perpetrators are located out with Scotland will not be captured by police recorded crime data. This is particularly relevant for online crimes given the scope and reach of the internet.

Notwithstanding this limitation the Police Scotland cyber-marker could provide an insight into the perpetrators of some cyber-crimes that come to the attention of the police, where such information is apparent. In due course, the Home Office may release this information for England and Wales police recorded crime, as their cyber flag has been in operation for longer. However any findings would not necessarily be transferable to Scotland.


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