Cybercrime is undoubtedly a rapidly evolving national and international issue that creates far-reaching, substantial issues for many organisations. More and more companies and business are forced to turn to the digital world in order to sustain their businesses particularly in light of the current climate and ongoing global pandemic causing cybercrime to spiral. A report conducted by Interpol found that Covid-19 has “resulted in a significant target shift for cybercriminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.” (Daly, 2020)
Cybercrime is nature the crime that is sometimes abandoned because it is difficult to see any physical damage being done, needless to say, the adverse effects are tremendous. According to the European Commission’s 2015 Eurobarometer Report, Irish businesses are more “vulnerable than their EU counterparts to cybercrime” (think business.ie, 2021)
“Dermot Shea who is the Chief of Detectives with NYPD has fraud on a global level is costing €3.7 trillion annually (Begley, 2019)
The risks are instantly largely elevated when organisations are forced to conduct their business or trade online, with the turn of the century use and benefits of the world wide web undeniably dramatically altered in a greatly positive way. Traditionally it was much easier for business and individuals to protect themselves, through using security devices such as CCTV cameras, safes, and alarm systems. It is far more difficult for one to protect themselves on such a complex and diverse system, further complicating an already challenging environment
In the 2020 PwC Irish Economic Crime Survey, 51% of more than 70 organisations who were surveyed in Ireland said they had experienced fraud in the past two years (Gorey, 2020).
Contrary to belief, cybercrime is not always committed for financial gain. Perpetrators sometimes have other criminal motives such as coercive control or crimes of sexual nature.
The police force in Ireland have set up The Garda Nation Cyber Crime Bureau (GCCB) and they are tasked with the forensic examination of computer media seized during the course of the criminal investigation. They also conduct in depth investigation into common criminal offences of a significant or complex nature including but not limited to network intrusions, interference with data belonging to corporate entities and institutions. (Garda, 2021)
Cybercrime is a very broad division and is understood on various levels, it ranges from traditional offences such as fraud and identity theft to theft of sensitive and personal data, distribution of child sexual content or reputational damage. what constitutes a cybercrime is largely misunderstood on many levels. The ongoing global Pandemic has in a sense opened a new door for criminals involved in this nature of crime since organisations are forced to rely on the internet in order to keep their business afloat and protect their livelihood as otherwise, they would have no other source of income.
Legislation is constantly being adapted and advanced to further inhibit the adverse effects of cybercrime, it is a rapidly evolving nature of the crime that requires consistent development of laws and awareness needs to be raised to bring about better cybersecurity and preventative measures. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace.
On the one hand cybersecurity is a constantly evolving platform and on the other hand, perpetrators must also conform to the recently accelerated trends.
In recent times questions have arisen in relation to how organised is the world of cybercrime? Organised cybercrime is expanding with the growing sophistication of the digital ecosystem. A broader understanding of the same will no doubt assist in the development of policies and legislation to further prevent this particular nature of the criminal activity. (Kraemer-Mbula, Tang, Rush, 2013)
In terms of looking at cybercrime from an Irish perspective, one could argue that this is a nature of crime that is commonly overlooked by policymakers in the Republic of Ireland. The most significant law in this area dated back as far as 1991 and “is in urgent need of reform” (McIntyre, 2005) It may be said that the Republic of Ireland is one of the few countries in the developed world to have failed to update its laws.
The Republic of Ireland has gained a global reputation for attracting internet giants such as Google and Microsoft. Ireland is a prosperous environment with an attractive location that offers low tax to companies like these. Undoubtedly due to this fact, the risk is therefore elevated for cybercrime which begs the question, why have the laws not evolved with this scale of threat? Cybercrime is said to be costing Irish businesses above €630 million annually” (ics. ie, 2021)Unsurprisingly, “the Irish Crime Classification System recognises only one distinct cybercrime- the offence of unauthorised access to date…other cybercrimes are subsumed into the more general criminal damage and dishonesty offences.” (McIntyre, 2015)
“In a survey by the insurance firm Hiscox…of companies in the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Ireland, this country topped the table for the percentage of companies expressing confidence in their IT and security readiness, at 70% and 66% respectively.” (Daly, 2020)
There a distinct need to bring coherence to this nature of crime in the Republic of Ireland and the need to bring the legislative framework and reformation of the laws but to speed in line with the unceasing threat. Greater research and reporting may aid this to enable the State to better detect and react to these attacks to limit the impact.
Begley, I., (2019) Independent. ie. Fraud and cybercrime cost Irish businesses and state €3.5bn every year- expert.
Daly, J., (2020). The Irish Examiner. Cybersecurity and remote working: One person’s risk is another’s opportunity. Garda.ie, (2021) Cyber Crime.
Gorey, C. (2020) Siliconrepublic. Cybercrime in Ireland now doubles the global average with record levels of fraud.
ICS.ie (2021) Cybercrime costs Irish Business up to €630 million annually.
Kraemer-Mbula, E., Tang, P., & Rush, H., (2013) Technological Forecasting and Social Change. The cybercrime ecosystem: Online innovation in the shadows? Volume 80. Issue 3.
McIntyre, T. T., (2005). Computer Crime in Ireland: A Critical Assessment of the Substantive Law. Irish Criminal Law Journal 15, no 1.
McIntyre, T., Cybercrime: Towards a Research Agenda. London Routledge.
Think business.ie. (2021) Irish SMEs are trying to expense cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are so common today, Irish firms are trying to expense them.
Written by: Ms. Rebecca Brennan
Criminal law advisor MEALC – Ireland