Clicking Out: Analyzing Awareness Surrounding Cybercrime Offences in Canada A Research Project by Holly Coccimiglio

Lightning Talk

Purpose of Research

In a stressful and uncertain time for many, this study aims to uncover the specific ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increased prevalence of cybercrime, as well as the attitudes that young Canadians hold toward this rapidly-growing form of crime. Through surveying Canadian adults aged 20-30, this research attempts to uncover why—even during a time when national cybercrime levels are at an all-time high—the majority of individuals belonging to this group are unaware of, disinterested by, or discounting of this form of crime. This study hopes to understand why this is true and bring awareness to the severity of this type of crime.

Conceptual Framework for Research

Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen's "Routine Activities Theory"

The vast majority of the literature surrounding cybercrime during COVID-19 points to the fact that the pandemic has provided plentiful opportunities for criminals. In both the physical and virtual sphere, the pandemic has forced almost all individuals to change and settle into a new routine in some way. This situation, known as the “routine activities theory” in criminology, states that, where there is a motivated offender, a suitable target, and a lack of capable guardianship, crime is likely to occur.

When looking at this theory through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, these factors are seen to be present in many spheres. Although motivated criminal offenders have always existed, the value of committing a crime today is much higher than it would be in other years, as many are becoming increasingly motivated due to financial strain, job loss, and other extenuating circumstances. Individuals and overrun institutions, like hospitals, are also more likely to be a suitable target during this time. On an institutional level, a large part of current research shows that healthcare organizations and hospitals are among the groups who are most susceptible to cybercrime. Due to their limited budgets, many healthcare organizations operate using outdated software and lack anti-virus systems. This is detrimental to the security of information and is a large factor in their susceptibility. On an individual level, civilians present as suitable targets, as many people with limited technological knowledge must now work from home. This group will be more likely to succumb to “phishing” attacks, which usually present themselves in the form of emails or website links, that look as though they are related to the individual’s employment. In March 2020 alone, phishing scandals, that trick users into providing personal information, increased by 600% (Ventrella, 2020).

"Work-from-home” arrangements are also contributing to a large amount of cybercrime occurrences in this sense as well (Bruno, 2020), as many companies are experiencing physical break-ins that aim to add malware (computer viruses, spyware, and ransomware) to computers. Due to a lack of physical presence in offices and storefronts, cybercriminals have heightened opportunities to physically come in contact with these computers. Malware also often infects computers remotely through fraudulent emails and websites (Pranggono & Arabo, 2020).

Research Methods

An online survey was used to gather data from individuals aged 20-30 to obtain insight into their experiences and attitudes towards cybercrime.

During data analysis, a mixed method approach was employed to group and understand text-based responses

Key Findings

While the majority of respondents expressed concern for their overall safety online, over half of those surveyed admitted to having no safeguards in place to prevent cybercrime, as well as divulged that an insecure connection to a webpage or site would not stop them from visiting it. So, our young people are concerned about cybercrime, but why haven't they taken any steps to protect themselves?

6 in 10 respondents surveyed expressed that an insecure connection would not prevent them from visiting a website. In other words, Canadian young adults aged 20-30 are placing higher importance on their access to online shopping, social, and participatory media activities than they are on their safety.

Cybercrime continues to be a less-than-important form of crime to many in this group, with 5 in 10 respondents expressing that they didn't believe cybercrime was a prevalent issue in Canada.

About the Researcher

Holly Coccimiglio

Hello! My name is Holly Coccimiglio and I am a soon-to-be graduate of Ryerson University's Professional Communication BA program. I will also be graduating with a minor in Law. The last four years have provided me with incomparable learnings, opportunities, and experiences, and I am so grateful to have honed my written, verbal and creative communication skills throughout the course of this innovative program. Following my graduation from Ryerson, I hope to translate the knowledge and expertise that I have acquired over the last four years into a career in the legal sector.


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