The research inspector

Police Professional has teamed up with the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) to bring you a new regular user-friendly briefing on policing research.

Sep 13, 2017

Ask any policing professional about how much ‘spare’ time they have to read up on the niceties of policing research. Then stand back. This is often not about a lack of interest, it is more often about how busy operational policing is – the dynamic risk and the sheer volume of jobs coming thick and fast. Well, we are here to try to help. With a foot in both research and policing ‘The Research Inspector’ will be exploring what is going on in the world of policing research in order to brief you. The focus here is all about impact of policing research, in other words, what difference it all makes and how it might help you in your job protecting victims and hunting down criminals. The first feature is on Dr Lee Hadlington’s research on cybercrime. Based at De Montfort University, Dr Hadlington is a psychologist who specialises on the psyche of victims and offenders in cyber space. We are already well briefed that digital risk and threat is at the top of current and growing crime types – in a nutshell, criminals are more likely to mug you online than on the high street. But the thing is what do we do about it? Dr Hadlington’s work challenges the notion that cybercrime is all about the actual computer. It is really about people. It is a bit like the focus for roads policing is now on getting criminals off the road – the vehicle is something they are using to commit crime – and it is the same with cyber. There is another parallel too – remember the target hardening ideas (Do not leave your valuables on display)? Well it is the same too with cyber victims. It is basically like lots of people are leaving their well-earned goods on full display on the front seat and the car door unlocked, or even wide open, when it comes to cyber security. We know as well that there is some change afoot in who deals with investigating digital crimes. At one time maybe this was seen as the preserve of the specialist unit but as such crimes have become more and more common, it is now fairly routine for a neighbourhood officer to be working on a case where the offender is operating from another country, or even another continent. Prevention in cyber space Nowadays we get what is involved in the complexity of investigation, but Dr Hadlington’s work is emphasising the pivotal role of some intervention with victims and possible victims as a ‘prevention is better than cure’ in cyber space too message. Worryingly, Dr Hadlington has found that 98 per cent of people working for a company (of any size) regard internet security as ‘someone else’s job’, and that same attitude then persists, in the same people, who tend also to take more risks with cyber security. Dr Hadlington’s work delves into almost a profile of the victim and thus reveals that the more a person is internet addicted out of work, the more they take risks with cyber security at work. He makes an analogy around risky behaviour and perceived safety with seatbelts. The parallel is the person who jumps in a car, puts the belt on and, because of that, feels totally safe to do crazy things. Through such an attitude, they end up being a bigger risk than nearly everyone else. Dr Hadlington identifies that just giving people information about cyber security may be like water off a duck’s back – it is a familiar but ignored message that is not hitting home. You have to explain why and tailor the support to the individual’s psychology, to help them adopt behaviours that will reduce the probabilities of becoming a victim. So, in terms of application, if we start to paint a picture – of passwords for example being like door keys – if you go to the trouble of locking your shiny five-piece mortice deadlock fire-proof door but leave the keys on a hook just at the side, well the same potential pitfalls are there if you have a key which is really very much like everyone else’s key – like many passwords are ‘PASSWORD’ – “that will be easy to remember”. No matter how fancy the door or the computer security software, both examples can show how it is easy to get into

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