Cybercriminals and Law Enforcement Wield Big Data in Chilling Ways


Law enforcement officials aren’t the only ones using big data. Savvy criminals are exploiting it in terrifying ways.

Big data has many benefits. Unfortunately, in an adversarial society, it often seems that those benefits can cancel each other out. Business owners often feel this way as their competitors weaponize big data more effectively. The same predicament can be observed in the criminal justice system.

Law enforcement officials use big data to identify, solve and prosecute crimes. In November, Interpol announced a big data partnership with Cisco to better identify cybercriminals.  However, criminals also use big data. It is important to understand how both sides use big data to their advantage.

Criminals use big data to better target their victims

Criminals are adept at using technology to their advantage. Obviously, cybercrime cases get the most attention in the media. The hackers behind the security breaches at Target, Yahoo and other major brands use big data to identify security flaws and exploit them.

Hackers often launch smaller scale attacks to collect data on their targets. They then use this information to coordinate assaults against larger and better security systems with similar security infrastructures.

According to cybersecurity experts that I have spoken with, less than 15% of cyberattacks are successful. However, cyber criminals are improving their odds by collecting data understand the weak points of their targets.

“Criminals are among the most technologically sophisticated in the world,” explains Zerobounce. “They monitor developments in the technological sector religiously and look for both new tools and potential vulnerabilities. Their obsessive, calculating mindset makes them dangerous to brands that aren’t prepared.”

Cybercriminals are not the only ones using big data to exploit their victims. Con artists, armed robbers and other criminals can use big data to understand their victim profile and improve their methodology.

How law enforcement uses big data

On the flipside, lawenforcement organizations from the NYPD to Interpol use big data to investigate crimes. They also use data to educate potential victims to thwart criminals. Here are some ways that big data is a valuable tool for law enforcement:

  • Creating more accurate profiles of known offenders. This data can be cross matched against the population to create a pool of likely suspects.
  • Using municipal, business and demographic data to identify targets criminals are likely to strike, so law enforcement presence can be invested in those areas.
  • Analyzing financial data for forensic accounting.
  • Identifying likely associates of offenders that have been taken into custody.
  • Communicating the probabilities to jurors while emphasizing that they have made their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Identifying patterns between seemingly isolated primes to determine if a serial offender may be behind them. This is particularly important when criminals operate across state lines and federal investigators need to get involved.
  • Monitoring networks in real-time and using sophisticated algorithms to identify crimes.

IBM Big Data Hub discusses the ways that big data has been used to catch confidence artists in real-time. Kamille Nixon, senior portfolio marketing manager for IBM Cloud Data Services, states that many criminals have been caught in real-time that would have likely escaped detection a decade ago.

“Lenders and other credit-extending businesses, such as banks and financial institutions, rely on sophisticated tools and systems to sniff out fraud. But often cyber criminals have come and gone before their fraud is ever detected. Indeed, fraudsters have developed elaborate schemes to “take the money and run,” disappearing before data analysis reveals the pattern of their swindle.Catching such criminals in the act—especially those who organize as gangs adept at beating sophisticated security measures—can seem impossible. However, increasing use of graph databases in transactional applications is beginning to make real-time detection of financial con artistry a reality.”

Big data has played a vital role in the criminal justice profession over the past few years. As law enforcement organizations improve their approach to crime fighting, they will continue to use big data in novel ways.