Cybercrime: fighting it requires adequate staff
Cybercrime has been on the rise for years. In particular since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, conventional crime has declined in Austria. Cybercrime, on the contrary, has been increasing since spring 2020 – among others due to hacker attacks and the exploiting of technical security gaps. This concerns the EU as a whole. The EU Parliament has already called for a stronger protection against increasing cyberthreats.
The Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) took a close look at "The Prevention of and Fight against Cybercrime". In its report published today, it points to the continuously increasing costs and damage created by this form of crime. International surveys in 2017 suggested a global damage of about USD 60 billion. According to the Austrian Economic Chambers, this amounts to a damage of several hundred euro in Austria, which affects citizens, the economy and state institutions alike. Furthermore, the damage does not only relate to finances, but also concerns immaterial aspects – such as online hate speech.
The police, public prosecutors’ offices and courts face growing demands in the fight against cybercrime. In 2019, the number of cybercrime offences increased by about 45 per cent to 28,439 reported offences compared to the year before.
In their report, the auditors highlight the central role of adequate staff in fighting cybercrime.
The audited period comprised the years from 2016 through 2019.
Creating the framework conditions for a modern human resources management
In 2012, the Federal Ministry of the Interior established the Cybercrime Competence Center as a central unit to fight cybercrime. The ACA notes that the recruitment of staff for the area of cybercrime poses a considerable challenge – which is also due to the framework conditions, such as formal criteria in addition to professional qualifications, the remuneration scheme of the civil service, lengthy admission procedures or lacking possibilities for newcomers from other sectors.
According to the auditors’ view, it is only to a limited extent that the job profiles at the Cybercrime Competence Center are comparable to those of other organizational units of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, they point to the Government Programme 2020–2024, which lists, under the heading “Good Framework Conditions for a Modern Police”, several measures, such as the development of a modern civil service and remuneration law that meets the security-police-related challenges.
The ACA therefore recommends to the Federal Ministry of the Interior to create, in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Arts and Culture, Civil Service and Sport, the framework conditions for a modern human resources management. Such framework conditions should ensure that all organizational units that are concerned with the fight against cybercrime have adequate staff with the necessary IT skills at their disposal.
In its statement, the Federal Ministry of the Interior points to the fact that the need for creating the framework conditions for a modern human resources management is evident. Only in this way will it be possible to position oneself as an attractive employer – also for technical or IT professions. The ACA takes note of the cooperation between the Federal Ministry of the Interior with the Federal Ministry of Arts and Culture, Civil Service and Sport that was commenced already in 2019 to create a set of measures in this regard and reaffirms its recommendation.
Differing terms used by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Justice
The auditors criticize that no uniform terms have been defined and coordinated between the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Justice for the area of cybercrime. In the ACA’s view, differing terms such as cybercrime or internet crime render it difficult to adopt a coordinated approach to the fight against cybercrime. Furthermore, neither the Federal Ministry of the Interior nor the Federal Ministry of Justice record criminal offences of incitement in social media that were committed under the term “online hate speech” as cybercrime.
The ACA therefore recommends to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Justice to jointly define those offences that are covered under the term cybercrime in order to collect and present comparable figures and to be able to take effective control measures.
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Report: The Prevention of and Fight against Cybercrime (in German)
Between November 2019 and July 2020, the ACA audited the subject of cybercrime. The audit aimed at assessing the databases on cybercrime, including the existing related strategies of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Justice. A particular focus, however, was put on evaluating the prevention of and fight against cybercrime with regard to the organization of and cooperation with the criminal police and the judiciary as well as the use of resources. The audited period spanned the years from 2016 through 2019. Where necessary, the ACA also took into account earlier and more recent developments. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACA had to suspend its audit from mid-March to mid-May 2020.