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Cybercriminal networks

On September 30 NSCR Postdoctoral Researcher Rutger Leukfeldt defends his thesis on cybercriminal networks, entitled Cybercriminal networks: Origin, growth and criminal capabilities, at the Open University. The last four years Rutger did research into the origins and growth processes and criminal capabilities of criminal networks which try to steal money from (customers) of financial institutions through hacking, malware and phishing. To gain insight into cybercriminal networks he reconstructed forty networks in the Netherlands, Germany, England and America and he analysed data from a fraud database of a Dutch bank.

A striking finding is that real-world social ties are still important within cybercriminal networks. In this form of digital crime members appear to prefer to work with people they already know from the physical world. For example, members grew up in the same area or were in the same prison. Most networks, however, also make – to a greater or lesser extent – use of online forums to recruit specialists. This allows a more fluid form of co-operation between the core members and facilitators. Lastly, there are networks of which the origins and growth are based on the use of forums, rather than real-world social connections. These networks seem to be able to be active worldwide with only a limited number of members. Forums thereby neutralise the traditional limitations of social ties.

Within the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) Rutger Leukfeldt is project leader of the national stimulus action ‘Cybercrime: the human factor’. The aim of this action is to stimulate and expand the current, mainly technological, study of cybercrime with more research into ‘the human factor’: perpetrators/offenders, victims and other stakeholders, and issues surrounding the legal approach and regulation of cybercrime. To achieve this, researchers in non-technological research on cybercrime and cybersecurity are brought together.

The aim is to achieve a description of the state of the art of research into the role of human factors in this research area. The stimulus action will formulate the main research questions for the short and long term and mapp (innovative) research methods and data sets that can be used in studying the human factor in cybercrime and cybersecurity. Thus a national research agenda cybercrime can be achieved.

Credits picture: Shutterstock

dr. Rutger Leukfeldt

About dr. Rutger Leukfeldt


Rutger Leukfeldt is a senior researcher Cybercrime at the NSCR and lector Cybersecurity and SMEs at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Rutger obtained his doctorate on a study into the development and growth processes of cybercriminal networks. Rutger also carried out various cybercrime investigations in the past ten years for clients from both public and private domains. For instance, research into methods and perpetrator characteristics of cyber criminals, research into victimization of cybercrime and research into the flow of cybercrime cases within the criminal justice system. In 2015, Rutger received a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship to study the changed organization of criminal networks. In 2017 he received an NWO Veni grant to study the offline side of cyber crime. Furthermore, since 2017 he has been chairman of the Cybercrime Working Group of the European Society of Criminology.

Rutger is a member of the Cybercrime Cluster.

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