Crime.net is a term I use to describe the impact of network technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones on crime and criminal enterprises. Applications of Crime.net include the following:
- Commission of crimes – this is the one part of Crime.net that’s gotten mainstream press coverage so far. Phishing, hacking into computers for credit card numbers, and so on. Data thefts at major retailers such as BJ’s Wholesale Club and Lowe’s indicate that there is probably more of this going on than has been reported in the media. And smart criminals may target smaller retailers that can’t afford the security resources of large corporations. Although not strictly a network based attack, computers have also been used to steal cars and other items as reported here and here.
- Scouting targets – identifying people or places that are likely targets for crimes, and developing intelligence about targets. One blogger recently revealed how to use Google Calendar to scout potential victims for burglarly or worse. Sound far fetched? Criminals in South Africa have been observed using cell phones to photograph potential victims. Google maps provides detailed maps for locating possible escape routes, planning look out locations and so on. Satellite imagery can be used to examine roof tops for covert access points to buildings.
- Sharing criminal expertise – Criminals have used websites, blogs, etc. to share methods of operation, criminal techniques and strategies, an even information about specific targets. The notorious Shadowcrew site included instructions on how to commit identity theft and fraud. Some worry that these marketplaces will become a “bazaar of violence” facilitating murder and terrorism.
- Online markets for stolen goods – The Shadowcrew created an online market for stolen credit card numbers and eBay is used to “fence” stolen goods. More of these sorts of sites likely exist today.
- Avoiding capture – criminals can use surveillance technologies, cell phones, etc. to warn each other of the approach of law enforcement personnel. Usually we think of surveillance technologies being used to fight crime, but criminals can also use them to avoid capture. Picture phones and wireless IP based cameras can be used to warn of the approach of law enforcement. Drug dealers use cellphones and multiple operatives to avoid capture with large quantities of cash and drugs for example. Analysis of publicly reported crime statistics can be used to predict areas with less law enforcement coverage. Imagine a future web site where criminals could determine the locations of police cars in real-time accessible over a cellphone or by using a stolen or otherwise obtained police data terminal.