On This Page

About the Unit

The Online Harms and Cybercrime Unit is a leading research centre of excellence for the study of cyber, specialising in cybercrime and cybercriminology, situated in the heart of London, at the University of East London. The OHCCU draws together transdisciplinary cyber expertise through its extensive international network, to explore the rapidly evolving landscape of cyber research. Our projects are at the leading edge of research in the domain of human/technology interaction. 
The Unit was established in 2019 and builds upon the past and current funding in the online harms and cybercrime area.  Current projects include an exploration of the human factors of cybercrime (funded through an EC H2020 project), focusing upon youth pathways into cybercrime. The Unit is a platform that promotes the work and related outcomes of the Directors and other researchers.

The Unit is unique as it focuses on the human factor of the cyber and online world.


Technology is now ubiquitous and the Internet specifically is an increasingly pervasive phenomenon. As of October 2018 almost 4.2 billion people are online [1] representing over 58% of the world's population - importantly over 70% of the world's youth population are now online [2]. Whilst the Internet offers abundant opportunities for education, networking and communication as an information superhighway, it can also manifest risk particularly regarding criminal activity, which in turn has implications for the study of criminal behaviour, organisation and networks.

There remain challenges for academia, police, policymakers, statutory authorities, individuals and society. This necessitates the need to understand the means, motive, opportunity [3] and behaviour concerning today's cyber and digital world in the same way offline crime, risks and challenges are all studied.  This therefore includes the policing and governance of cyberspace as well as the use of digital technology for ensuring an orderly and safe society. [4]

Since 2014 Europol has recognised that there is a "dynamic relationship between online and offline organised crime.[5]" Interpol has highlighted that "new trends in cybercrime are emerging all the time", with estimated costs to the global economy running to billions of pounds. [6]  Therefore as the barriers to crime participation and syndication online have reduced, there has been a corresponding increase in online crime.

The ecosystem of Cyberspace represents a relatively new criminal domain that allows old forms of crime to take new forms, such as cyberfraud while, at the same time, enabling new types of criminal behaviour such as hacking. Police and other agencies are likewise utilising digital technology and other devices to address these threats and challenges. There is a need to consider the impact of this environment in a developmental context, for example emerging criminal phenomena such as cyber juvenile delinquency. [7] 

In terms of victimology there is a need to consider the impact of this environment on vulnerable and high risk populations. This is required in order to understand modus operandi in this space as offline criminal theories or motivations may not apply. Ongoing, high quality research is needed to evaluate the threats, measure the cost, consider the human impact and to devise means for preventing, deterring future harms and bringing offender to trial, whilst also supporting the victims.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/
[2] https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2017.pdf
[3] Fundamentals of Digital Forensics: Theory, Methods, and Real-Life Applications
[4] Fox, S. J. (2018) Policing - the technological revolution: Opportunities & Challenges! ….. Technology in Society
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2018.09.006 (linked to presentations at the UN WSIS March 2018 and ICCC India, November 2018)
[5] Ref; Aiken, M.P., & Mc Mahon, C.(2014). The Cyberpsychology of Internet Facilitated Organised Crime, Europol Organised Crime Threat Assessment Report (iOCTA). Retrieved November 11
[6] https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Cybercrime
[7] Aiken, M. P., Davidson, J., Amann, P. (2016) 'Youth Pathways into Cybercrime' (Report).


  • To build on the Directors' expertise by building an international, networked research Unit situated in the heart of London focusing upon a broad range of cyber themes from a multi-disciplinary perspective including Criminology; socio-legal/legal/regulation; policing and psychology. 
  • To be a leading research unit of excellence with a repository based in London focusing upon global cyber issues (whilst, also addressing local impact) ensuring that key findings inform current practice, policy-developing law and university and industry curriculum and knowledge. 
  • To additionally and uniquely focus upon the intersection between online and offline criminality exploring pathways into crime and will actively engage in research that may help to explain, model or predict evolving threats and criminality. The context in which cybercrime occurs will be considered including regulation, legal frameworks and risk. 


The Unit:

  1. Specialises in investigation, dissemination, education and policy formation in the field of cybercrime and online protection. 
  2. Provides thought-leadership about the impact of future technologies on cybercrime, cyber victimisation and the criminal justice system, including agencies that police, regulate and monitor cyberspace. 


Primarily the thematic themes of the Unit relate to the following areas of cybercrime, cybersecurity; cyber protection; cyberlaw and governance.


  • Child online protection
  • Online harm (child online SA; bullying; and revenge pornography)
  • Financial cybercrime
  • Criminal hacking
  • Youth violence and digital media 
  • Young people's pathways into cybercrime 
  • Policing and policymaking within the digital era 
  • Cyber terrorism
  • Cybersecurity - awareness, education, and prevention
  • Organised cybercrime
  • Online harassment and cyberstalking
  • Global implications of cybercrime
  • Cybercrime and cyberlaw
  • Cyberethics and the law
  • Future evolutions of cyber-criminality
  • Implications of evolving technologies, such as AI
  • Governance in/of Cyberspace

Core activities


The Online Harms and Cyber Crime Unit aims to become a global leader in producing research and supporting education and intervention at the intersection of criminology, technology, and the law (in relation to the thematic themes and new emerging ones). 

The Online Harms and Cyber Crime Unit pursues the following activities as a means to: "inform and share knowledge, experiences, advancement, identifying challenges and propose solutions":

  • Applied research;
  • Consultancy; 
  • CPD training for criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, police and other agencies;
  • Research-informed teaching - curriculum development;
  • Increase employability (by establishing placements and links for students studying and after completing their studies);
  • Postgraduate / PhD research; 
  • Link with international research - i.e. in conjunction with Europol and INTERPOL 



EC H2020 
Understanding the drivers of cyber criminality, and new methods to prevent, investigate and mitigate cybercriminal behaviour
PI : Prof Davidson and Prof Aiken 
Total grant value E 5,000,000 (UEL  E 815,000) 

11/2018 - 05/2019   
End Violence Against Children (WEprotect) 
Development of child online protection policy and implementation plan for The Govt of Rwanda
PI: Prof Davidson (with 5Rights (Baroness Beeban Kidron)). 

9/2018 - 04/2019   
Department of Culture, Media and Sport UK Council for Internet Safety  
Rapid Evidence Assessment Adult online harms (report to inform white paper on Internet safety). 
PI: Prof Davidson (with Prof Sonia Livingstone, LSE).   

7/2018 - 6/2019      
Centre of Expertise in Child Abuse/Home Office 
Exploring the context of CSA and CSE offending.    
Senior PI: Prof Davidson (with Dr Elena Martellozzo, Middlesex University).    

1/2017 - 3/2017       
Department of Culture, Media and Sport UK  
Child Internet Safety Review (for Green Paper) 
PI: Prof Davidson (with Prof Sonia Livingstone and  Dr Jo Bryce).    

2/2016 - 12/2017    
Europol EC3 & Private investor (VC)  
Pathways into financial cybercrime amongst young people.  
Co-PIs: Prof Julia Davidson & Dr Mary Aiken (UCD).  

3/2016 - 12/2016      
WeProtect & UNICEF  
Online child safety in the MENA Region. 
Research Lead:  Patrick Burton CCJP (with Prof Julia Davidson)  

European Commission ISEC fund  
Exploration of policing and industry practice in addressing online child abuse. 
PI: Prof. Davidson (with partners in 4 EU countries).  



If you want to know more, get in touch - we're happy to help.