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Understanding the human needs of people impacted by cybercrime

Technology makes our lives easier by allowing us to do things quickly and conveniently, whether it’s banking and online shopping, connecting with family, or working from home. This convenience, however, can open the door to potential risks, like cybercrime.

Cybercrime can take many forms: fraud, hacking, phishing, identity theft, romance scams, cyberbullying, and more. Some studies put the cost of cybercrime in the billions of dollars, and it continues to be a rising trend. But, the impacts go beyond economics.

Millions suffer the emotional impacts of cybercrime, including feelings of shame, vulnerability, fear, and confusion.

Yet, cybercrime is going unreported in Canada because people don’t know when, where, or how to report when they fall victim to a cybercrime.

Working as a multidisciplinary team, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) are trying to tackle this problem. Together, we have been exploring this question:

Can an online service be created to enable any Canadian citizen and business to report cybercrime in a way that makes it easier for law enforcement to triage, analyze, and investigate?

We started with Discovery

During the initial eight-week discovery phase, we did more than desk research. We talked to people who have been affected, and those who might use a potential cybercrime reporting service:

  • We visited the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to observe and learn about victims’ stories.
  • We built a story gathering tool so people could share their experiences of cybercrime.
  • We met with police from across Canada.

So why did we do Discovery instead of just jumping in to fix the problem? Because sometimes our assumptions are wrong. And fixing a problem that doesn’t actually exist helps no one.

Discovery research is important because it sets the direction by focusing our work on the right problems. We learn enough to create a framework to guide (not dictate) a prototype and test it in the next Alpha phase. It’s about figuring out where to start work on a service, not where to finish.

What we learned

Going into this, we assumed all people have the same motivation to report: to help provide information to police. Through Discovery research, we learned our assumptions were too narrow and didn’t always consider the humans behind the screen.

Sometimes people’s reasons for reporting might not be to directly help an investigation.

Through talking with people, we were reminded that an online tool can provide small pieces of emotional comfort and support that victims need after they’ve experienced a cybercrime. And sometimes that’s all the motivation they need to report.

Without conversations with people, we lose the little details. And often, it’s those little details that make the difference between someone using a service, and not using a service.

All in all, we learned that people are willing and able to report a cybercrime using an online service. And to meet their specific needs, it has to be simple, quick, reliable, and human-centred.

With these insights, we now know where to start in Alpha.

Join us as we move forward

RCMP wants to build a people-focused service. With the ever-changing nature of cybercrime, the only way to do that is to put people affected by cybercrime at the heart of research and design. We’re looking forward to building a service that is both easy to use for victims and effective for investigators.

We’ll be sharing more about this product as it progresses! Follow along on GitHub as we prototype in Alpha.

Want to do this kind of work on your team? Check out our recent post on policy and design research and our Design research handbook for tips and tools for getting started.