The average age of a cyber offender is just 17, and according to the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) many are video gamers with links to gaming communities.
According to the OCTF’s annual report and threat assessment, online criminals are the youngest offenders.
It also said that while the average age of a cyber criminal is 17, in reality offending is likely to begin even earlier, as many only come to the attention of the authorities when aged 17.
The report showed that a total of £591,000 was lost to victims here with 331 cyber-dependent crimes being carried out during the last financial year.
Cyber-dependent crimes are crimes that require computers or networks to carry out an offence.
Cyber-enabled crimes – such as fraud or blackmail – can be conducted offline as well as online.
The report said the true scale of cyber security breaches can only be obtained if businesses report incidents, something that the PSNI say does not always happen.
The police have put this down to businesses wanting to maintain a good reputation.
Five cyber security arrests were made between April 2017 and March 2018, with 25 searches carried out by the PSNI.
Anthony Harbinson is the director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice and said progress is being made to help protect businesses.
“Significant progress is also being made in protecting individuals and businesses against cyber crime. The new purpose-built PSNI Cyber Crime Centre is just one addition which will help enhance the PSNI’s forensic and investigative capabilities,” he said.
Cyphra is a cyber security firm based in Belfast. One of the company’s directors, Conrad Simpson, said businesses should take time to understand the threats posed by potential breaches of security.
“When it comes to businesses having to deal with a cyber security incident, the reality is that it’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’ it will happen,” he said.
“With the reliance on digital technologies and the importance of data for business operation and innovation, organisations need to take steps to understand and manage their cyber threats. They should ensure that their approach encompasses not only steps to protect their information, but also enables them to detect an incident when it occurs and have the processes in place to allow them to recover as quickly as possible.”
Mr Simpson added that the perpetrators are becoming more savvy in their approach to committing attacks.
He added: “Everyday our customers come to us with new and wide-ranging challenges and we’re seeing a sophisticated level of criminality involved. With this increase in attacks, businesses have a responsibility to ensure all staff and suppliers are cyber security aware and that their business is more cyber resilient.”
This is a 23.9% increase from the previous year.
Drug trafficking (up 3.1%) and possession offences (23.1%) also rose compared to the previous year. The PSNI said that cannabis and cocaine topped the list of drugs seized adding that they were taking “proactive” steps to stop drug dealing and trafficking across the province.
There were 5,120 cannabis seizures during the financial year, a 788 increase on 2016/17.
Around 31.2 kg of the drug was seized at Northern Ireland’s borders.
“There’s a demand for cannabis,” said detective superintendent Bobby Singleton who labelled the drug as the “backbone of the drugs economy”.
He added: “I think in many communities people either don’t think it’s illegal or think that it shouldn’t be. To some extent, people look at it and think well, it’s only cannabis.
“But 60% of people admitted to drug treatment programmes say that they’re habitually addicted to cannabis.”
Seizures of LSD and opiates also increased with a 38.5% rise.
The report also detailed further criminal activity including modern slavery and human trafficking as well as tax fraud, evasion and waste crime.
The average age of a cyber offender in Northern Ireland, however it’s believed crimes are committed at younger ages
The number of cyber security arrests made between April 2017 and March of this year, alongside 25 PSNI raids
The number of drug seizure incidents here has reached a 10-year high, this is a 23.9% increase from last year
Amount of cannabis seized at Northern Ireland borders