An analysis of cybercrime in NSW has found less than half of incidents reported to a federal database led to a police referral, and most referrals were closed “with no further investigation”.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) unveiled its analysis [pdf] on Tuesday, which is based on three years of data extracted from the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s online reporting system, the ReportCyber Application Platform or RCAP.
The entire dataset contains 39,494 reports of cybercrime over the three years to June 2022.
However, BOCSAR noted this is an incomplete dataset because not all cybercrimes are reported through RCAP, and some may not be reported at all.
The agency said that most victims of cybercrime in NSW are “individuals (89 percent), male (53 percent) and over 25 years of age (87 percent)”.
“While a high proportion of victims have evidence about the incident (94 percent), the majority did not know their perpetrator and therefore few reports included suspect details (28 percent),” BOCSAR said.
“The majority (71 percent) of reports were closed by police in RCAP with no further investigation undertaken.”
Triaging cybercrime reports to relevant police jurisdictions is described by BOCSAR as one of the RCAP’s “main functions”.
“Police agencies can then decide whether to refer reports to relevant officers for further investigation and prosecution,” it said.
“We consider that a police referral occurred when a report is closed on RCAP on the grounds of being referred to local police to investigate.”
BOCSAR said its analysis showed that “less than half of all reports to RCAP resulted in a referral to police”, at least in NSW.
Fraud and online image abuse were most likely to be referred; by contrast, “reports regarding identity crime or device offences were unlikely to be referred to police with just 17.5 percent and 5.2 percent of reports referred, respectively.”
A major difficulty for police agencies taking on cybercrime investigations is that the alleged perpetrators are often outside the state’s jurisdiction.
“In the vast majority of cases, victims do not know any details about the offender and many of those who do, report that the suspected perpetrator resides overseas,” BOCSAR said.
“This makes it near impossible for local and federal police agencies to prosecute offenders and undermines the deterrent value of any criminal sanctions prescribed for these offences.”
BOCSAR’s executive director Jackie Fitzgerald used the report to highlight incomplete and siloed cybercrime statistics collection in Australia.
To obtain a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and nature of cybercrime, there is a need to “integrate disparate reporting systems,” she argued.
“Cyber-offending is arguably our most significant emerging crime problem,” Fitzgerald said.
“However, our understanding of this offence is seriously hampered, firstly, by people not coming forward, and, secondly, when they do, by the multiple, competing channels available to people to report the offence”.