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Criminal Justice in the Pandemic Era-New Shift

By Maham Zaidi

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world. It has not only claimed more than a million lives, but it has also pushed millions of people into extreme poverty, and it has triggered a decline in human development for the first time since 1990. Strained social and economic conditions have impacted crime and on efforts to prevent, also impacted criminal justice in the pandemic, investigate and adjudicate it. Lockdowns enabled new illicit markets to thrive, while others were disrupted, presenting unique crime prevention and criminal justice challenges. 

 We all experienced the drastic change of the world becoming tech-savvy and digitalized to the next level in the pandemic, as everything went online, also did the criminals! The pandemic of COVID-19 and the imposed lockdown has led to more people being confined at home with many more hours to spend online each day and increasingly relying on the Internet to access services they normally obtain offline. Some experts place at least partial blame on COVID-19 for the recent onslaught of cyber-attacks on public and private entities. Between May 2020 and May 2021, the FBI saw complaints about cyber-crime jump by 1 million. 

The Concern 

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The coronavirus pandemic has spawned enormous changes especially criminal justice in the pandemic, from economic distress and high unemployment to disrupted schooling and tragic public health outcomes. Even before stay-at-home orders were issued in many places and before there were large numbers of confirmed infections, there was a massive decrease in reported rates for almost all types of crime. In the months following the initial lockdowns, as people adjusted to the new normal and cities started to ease COVID-related restrictions, crime rates in the U.S. continued to follow very different patterns than in previous years. However, the magnitude of the impact has varied by type of crime, and there have been notable exceptions: While overall crime rates are lower than they have been in past years, homicides and shootings are much higher than usual. What accounts for these changes, and what can we learn from them? 

The dangers of cyber-crime have been prevailing for many years and have increased in pandemic and made criminal justice in the pandemic far complex. Still, the increase in the percentage of the population connected to the internet and the time spent online, combined with the sense of confinement and the anxiety and fear generated from the lockdown, have provided more opportunities for cyber-criminals to take advantage of the situations and make more money or create disruption. It is important to note that some more vulnerable segments of the population, such as children, need to spend more time online for services such as schooling. This seismic change in how we live our lives and use the Internet has prompted a proliferation of e-crimes and criminal justice in the pandemic 

Countries across the globe are reporting an increase in cybercrime during the pandemic. For instance, in Italy, the Polizia Postale, the law enforcement branch in charge of the cybercrimes, said several scams and frauds that came in ads, emails, and fake websites through phone calls and messages. Cybercriminals are capitalizing on the anxieties and fears triggered by the pandemic, using malware, such as viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware, to invade, damage, steal or cancel personal data on personal computers. Stolen data can then be used for different malicious purposes, including accessing bank accounts and blackmailing the victims in exchange for ransoms. A “Corona anti-virus” software has also been flagged to the Italian law enforcement authorities. The application, BlackNet Rat, promises to protect the user’s device from coronavirus. Still, instead, it breaches the computer’s security and takes control of the computer, effectively enabling the criminal to control it remotely. 

Let’s Get the Facts Straight 

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  • Online Scams and Phishing - Threat actors have revised their usual online scams and phishing schemes. By deploying COVID-19 themed phishing emails, often impersonating government and health authorities, cybercriminals entice victims into providing their data and downloading malicious content 
  • Disruptive Malware (Ransomware and DDoS) - Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and healthcare institutions due to the potential for high impact and financial benefit. 
  • Data Harvesting Malware - The deployment of data harvesting malware such as Remote Access Trojan, info stealers, spyware, and banking Trojans by cybercriminals is on the rise. Using COVID-19 related information as a lure, threat actors infiltrate systems to compromise networks, steal data, divert money and build botnets.  
  • Malicious Domains - Taking advantage of the increased demand for medical supplies and information on COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in cybercriminals registering domain names containing keywords, such as “coronavirus” or “COVID.” These fraudulent websites underpin various malicious activities, including C2 servers, malware deployment, and phishing. 
  • Misinformation- An increasing amount of misinformation and fake news is spreading rapidly among the public. Unverified information inadequately understood threats, and conspiracy theories have contributed to anxiety in communities and, in some cases, facilitated the execution of cyberattacks. Nearly 30 percent of countries which responded to the global cybercrime survey confirmed the circulation of false information related to COVID-19 
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  • During the first quarter of 2021, homicide rates declined from their peak in the summer of 2020 but remained above levels in the first quarter of prior years. The number of homicides rose by 24% compared to the first quarter of 2020 (an increase of 193 homicides) and by 49% compared to the first quarter of 2019 (an increase of 324 homicides). 
  • Despite recent increases, the 2020 year-end homicide rate in the study sample was just over half what it was for those cities 25 years ago (11.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in those cities versus 19.4 per 100,000 in 1995). 
  • Aggravated and gun assault rates were also higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in 2020. High assault rates increased 7%, while gun assault rates went up by 22%. 
  • Burglary, robbery, and drug offense rates were lower in the first quarter of 2021 than in 2020. Residential burglary, non-residential burglary, theft, and drug offense rates dropped by 16%, 7%, 16%, and 24% from the same period in 2020. Motor vehicle theft rates were 28% higher in the first quarter of 2021 than the year before. 
  • Domestic violence did not increase in the first quarter of 2021 over the first quarter of 2020. This result is based on just 11 of the 32 cities and should be viewed with caution. 
Learn more about crime in COVID19

In response to elevated crime rates, especially digital, the conclusion leads that urgent action is required. As the pandemic subsides, pursuing crime-control strategies of proven effectiveness and enacting needed policing reforms will be essential to achieving prompt yet durable reductions in violent crime in our cities. 

Digital Enforcement During COVID-19 

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We are presently witnessing one of the certain legacies of the coronavirus: Massive State digital Surveillance and Enforcement. Countries such as France, Germany, Israel, the USA, and the United Kingdom have unleashed their Intelligence and Law enforcement agencies with the hope that they may be able to control the virus by preventing the crowd. 

The digital technologies used to fight COVID-19 were made possible by shifting the control and traffic of national networks from telecom providers to the Government itself. For example, by modifying the prioritization of Internet network traffic from regular services to intelligence needs, states can generate sufficient bandwidth and redirect the traffic of all the digital Sources. Data from CCTV surveillance, credit card information, facial recognition, Internet surveillance, GSM and IP-based geolocation, and others are now rapidly and securely collected. 

The collection and analysis of this monumental amount of data also create the necessity for securing the network and the new sources from third-party threats. Network security solutions are an important element of the mission as they ensure any endpoints and the transit from the authorities to the command-and-control center. LEA can seal the intelligence pipe without accessing the sources. Governments have a set of tools to monitor and control the networks via laws, regulations, and political decisions. But there is too much exposure in the digital world and not enough ways to monitor and protect it. 

What Does This Mean? 

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The onset of the pandemic in the U.S. in 2020 had a massive impact on crime, criminal justice in the pandemic as a whole – with overall crime falling by over 23% and large drops in almost all types of crime except for homicides, cyber-crime, and shootings. The decline in crime began before stay-at-home orders and coincided closely with the substantial reduction in mobility. At this writing, the pandemic is still raging in the US. As such, political leaders, law enforcement, and individuals will need to account for the changed circumstances as they make decisions for some time to come. The hope is that these initial findings of the pandemic’s impact on crime will help inform decisions on the allocation of police resources as well as individual precautions 

Digital crime has taken us by a blow which means policing needs to become strong through active measures and strong security. All the digital evidence collected in masses needs big and safe storage, managing, and organizing system. The digital evidence management system here is the rescue rope for a cliffhanger. 

VIDIZMO| Your Safety Kit in the Pandemic & Beyond 

VIDIZMO offers a digital evidence management system that allows you to store, manage and share videos, audio, images, documents, and other types of digital evidence. Explicitly designed to make the work of government and law enforcement agencies easier, VIDIZMO automatically ingests all kinds of digital evidence from sources such as CCTVbody-worn cameras and dashcams, and enables you to share evidence with various stakeholders involved in criminal justice securely. VIDIZMO DEMS transcribes video evidence to improve accessibility, allows protection of personally identifiable information by redaction, and flexible deployment options to store evidence on-premises, on a government cloud, or in a hybrid infrastructure. In short, each of the features in VIDIZMO is designed to make work more straightforward and improve the criminal justice system.       

Recognized in IDC MarketScape*, VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) streamlines the process of securing, managing, searching, analyzing, and sharing ever-increasing digital evidence.

With digital portals, VIDIZMO helps prosecutors, public defenders, and other criminal justice stakeholders eliminate the costs, risks, and time investment associated with using traditional DVDs and USBs to carry evidence. Criminal justice stakeholders can seamlessly collect & share evidence, streamline the discovery process, maintain chain of custody, and redact evidence for presenting cases in court. 

VIDIZMO deals with additional evidence sharing and managing portals according to the requirements of various agencies. It gives agencies the key features of limited time and view sharing controlling the access to sensitive evidence and data shared. VIDIZMO also offers a desktop application to view evidence offline and systematize uploading. The mobile version makes it easy to capture, upload, manage and share evidence from your smartphone producing evidence sharing quickly and more manageable. 

Learn More

The key features that VIDIZMO offers are limited-time and view sharing, which keeps an eye on user access and reduces the risk of unauthorized entrance. End-to-end encryption ensures secure evidence sharing with FIPS-compliant AES-256 encryption. The various portals present for evidence sharing mentioned above and the chain of custody records share a chronological list of documents for all user activity. Evidence in volume can be shared quickly and rapidly through the VIDIZMO Digital management system (DEMS). 

Robust and well-engineered digital evidence management systems hold the promise of changing how each participant interacts with evidence for the better. Making life easy for law enforcement agencies in the pandemic and how to combat the increasing digital crime – digital evidence management is a solution worth investing in. 

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Posted by Maham Zaidi

Maham Zaidi is Technology Content Strategist at VIDIZMO which is a Gartner recognized enterprise video content management system, to stream live/on-demand media to both internal and external audiences, on-premise, Azure or AWS cloud. VIDIZMO solutions are used by enterprises, government, local, state government, healthcare, law enforcement agencies, justice, public safety, manufacturing, financial & banking industry.

Tags: criminal justice in the pandemic, cyber crime, crime in Covid19

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