Francopol 2011 Shows Off Cybercrime Savoir-Faire

Last week, I attended the Francopol conference on cybercrime in Nicolet, Canada, inside the impressive Quebec National Police School. As in 2010, I was impressed by the sessions and speakers taking part. Here are some elements I would like to share with you.

A part of the talks approached the techniques used online by suspects to deceive young children for sexual ends and how to unmask them. On Wednesday, René Morin from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection said that his institute receives more than 700 reports per month. Between August 2007 and June 2011 they analyzed the most critical reports and are about to publish the results. They noted that the average age of suspects has fallen to 26 years old from 31 years old in a previous report. Girls are 85 percent of victims (up from 77 percent). Social network platforms such as Facebook and gaming sites like Dofus are growing attack vectors, but MSN instant messaging is still the most common avenue.


Another talk covered “cyberbanging.” This term describes the activities of street gang members on the Internet. I thank David Décary-Hétu, a doctoral candidate in the Criminality School, who allowed me to summarize some of his data for this blog. The next table shows the busiest gangs online.

Eight gangs are on Twitter. Their members employ the platform to support the gang and to flaunt their gangster lifestyle. Eighteen gangs are on Facebook. Besides posting some violent pictures and firearms, they use Facebook to flaunt the color and the hand signals of the gangs. Administrators and fans also spread flattering messages explaining they are the elite. The goal is to prove their strength, size, and determination. It is impossible to authenticate the fans; they could be members, admirers, or police officers.

Despite the attraction of Facebook, Myspace is still a popular platform for gangs. Décary-Hétu counted 16 occurrences. Myspace has the highest number of incriminating pictures and violent videos, and is the sole recruiting platform–spreading messages for new recruits. The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, on the other hand, uses social networks for corporate ends (to support their chapters). There is no bragging of criminal exploits, just an emphasis on legitimate aspects and problems of victimization.

I heard or read many other good papers during the conference. In the next few days, I hope to give you some URLs for them. For my part, I gave a talk about the Anonymous Group circles, their differences of opinion and those consequences, as well as some thoughts regarding police responses around the world. I will develop these points in my next blog.

Before I finish, I must share one adventure with you. On Sunday before flying to Las Vegas, Nevada, for McAfee FOCUS 2011, I visited the folk culture museum in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. I especially enjoyed the exposition “Québec Criminally Speaking,” which lucidly explains local criminal history and its past and present mysteries. Visitors can see ropes used in the last death by hanging, the ceremonial cloches wore by the Order of the Solar Temple gurus, and various crime scenes. And of course, the latest weapon: the Internet. (The main online “hero” is the Montreal resident Mafiaboy.) There is also a question-and-answer game.

Francopol has ended, but the museum will offer this exhibit until January 8, 2013. It’s well worth a visit!