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Online Harms and Cyber Crime Unit (OHCCU)

Cyber crime

About the Unit

The Online Harms & Cyber Crime Unit is a centre of excellence, based at the University of East London, Stratford, for the study of online harms, cybercrime, cyber law, cyber-criminology, cyber bullying/hate, and cyber security/terrorism. All of these are subjects that are rapidly evolving research areas at the leading edge of human/technology interaction. 

The Unit was established in 2019 and builds upon the past and current funding that has been achieved in respect to online challenges and policing the cyber environment – identifying specifically, the research and consultation undertaken in respect to online child sexual abuse and exploitation and other areas of harm. 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


Background

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 worlds 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 remains 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.

This said, there remains challenges in terms policing cyberspace including as to where governance should lie and the role of various agencies.  Therefore, the Online Harms & Cyber Crime Unit is perfectly positioned in the Centre of Professional Policing.

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 (Europol, 2018). 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.

In 2016 NATO formally recognised Cyberspace as a new frontier in defence, a domain a warfare – as an environment.




[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).

 

Mission

The Mission of the Online Harms & Cyber Crime Unit

Is –

  •  To build on UEL’s 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.

 

Goals
The Unit:

  1. Specialises in investigation, dissemination, education and policy formation in the field of cybercrime and societal 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.

Overview

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

Namely: 

  • Psychology of cybercrime
  • Child online protection
  • Online victimisation and harm (child online SA; bullying; and revenge pornography)
  • Financial cybercrime
  • Criminal Hacking
  • Youth violence and the digital media 
  • Young peoples’ 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
  • Cyber ethics and the law
  • Future evolutions of cyber-criminality
  • Implications of evolving technologies, such as AI
  • Governance in/of Cyberspace

Core Activities

Aims

The Online Harms & 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 & 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 policy makers, 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);
  • Post graduate / PhD research; 
  • Link with international research – i.e. in conjunction with Europol and INTERPOL


People

UEL OHCCU Collaborators

Projects

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).
$180.000 

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).  
£60,000

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).   
£340,000

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).   
£5000

11/2016 - 11/2018  
Police Knowledge Transfer Fund 
Developing an e-Application for the Police Cadets.
CI: Prof Julia Davidson (with Prof Antonia Bifulco, 
Devon and Cornwall Police Force  
£500,000

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). 
$100,000

3/2016 - 12/2016     
WeProtect & UNICEF 
Online child safety in the MENA Region.
Research Lead:  Patrick Burton CCJP 
(with Prof Julia Davidson) 
£350,000

11/2014 - 9/2015      
NSPCC, OCC & BBFC
An exploration of young people’s experience of legal adult pornography. 
Leads: Dr Elena Martellozzo & Dr Miranda Horvath, Cis: Profs Julia Davidson & Joanna Adler. 
£70,000


3/2015 - 4/2015      
MOPAC 
The development of specialist support services for young people who have offended and who have also been victims of crime, abuse and/or violence. 
PI –Dr David Porteous, Cis - Profs Julia Davidson & Joanna Adler. 
£10,000

8/2014-8/2016
European Commission ISEC fund 
Exploration of policing and industry practice in addressing online child abuse.
PI: Prof. Davidson (with partners in 4 EU countries). 
£670,000

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).
$180.000 

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).  
£60,000

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).   
£340,000

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).   
£5000

11/2016 - 11/2018  
Police Knowledge Transfer Fund 
Developing an e-Application for the Police Cadets.
CI: Prof Julia Davidson (with Prof Antonia Bifulco) 
Devon and Cornwall Police Force  
£500,000

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). 
$100,000

3/2016 - 12/2016     
WeProtect & UNICEF 
Online child safety in the MENA Region.
Research Lead:  Patrick Burton CCJP 
(with Prof Julia Davidson) 
£350,000

11/2014 - 9/2015      
NSPCC, OCC & BBFC
An exploration of young people’s experience of legal 
adult pornography. 
Leads: Dr Elena Martellozzo & Dr Miranda Horvath, Cis: Profs Julia Davidson & Joanna Adler. 
£70,000

3/2015 - 4/2015      
MOPAC 
The development of specialist support services for young people who have offended and who have also been victims of crime, abuse and/or violence. 
PI –Dr David Porteous, Cis - Profs Julia Davidson & Joanna Adler. 
£10,000

8/2014-8/2016
European Commission ISEC fund 
Exploration of policing and industry practice in addressing online child abuse.
PI: Prof  Davidson (with partners in 4 EU countries). 
£670,000

2/2014 - 5/2014          
Office of the Children’s Commissioner 
Rapid Evidence Assessment of the prevalence and impact of intrafamilial child sexual abuse. 
PIs: Prof Julia Davidson and Dr Miranda Horvath. 
£50,000

10/2012 - 10/2015       
Qatar National Research Foundation 
A comparative study of cyberbullying in Qatar and the UK.
PI: Prof Davidson & Dr Samara Muthana (with Prof Peter Smith, Goldsmiths College) 
$1,000,000

12/2012-03/2013
Ministry of Justice
Mapping the Landscape, exploring the quality of Community provision for offenders and their families.
PI: Prof Davidson (with Toynbee Hall & POLICIS). 
£100,000

6/2009 - 12/2011     
EU grant with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) 
The European Online Grooming Project. 
PI:  Prof  Julia Davidson & Prof Antonia Bifulco 
(with Steve Webster NATCEN). 
£470,000

6/2010 - 6/2012  
EU grant with Child and Family Services Sweden 
Research and therapy for young victims of Internet abuse’ Research evaluator and reviewer. 
Funded by the EC Safer Internet Programme. 
£20,000

2010 & 2016    
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Bahrain (TRA) 
Research leading to the development of ‘State of the Nation Review of Internet Safety‘ in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Funder
PI: Prof Julia Davidson & Dr Elena Martellozzo. 
£90,000

1/2009 - 6/2009     
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
Evaluation of ThinkUKnow Internet Safety Programme
PI: Prof Julia Davidson. 
£50,000

1/2009 - 6/2009     
National Audit Office 
Young people and Internet safety online survey
PI: Prof Julia Davidson. 
£50,000

3/2009 - 7/2010      
ESRC 
Exploring and Engaging BME Communities in Kingston. £87,000
ESRC
Grant with Fellowships x 2.  
PI: Prof Julia Davidson with Dr Rupa Huq and Dr Heidi Seetzen  
£98,000

11/2007 - 5/2009
Metropolitan Police 
Exploring Child Victims Perceptions of Police Practice
PI: Dr Julia Davidson (with Professor Antonia Bifulco, RHUL).
£40,000

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