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Robert Gordon (left), director of the SFU School of Criminology, Bessie Pang, administrative director, International Cybercrime Centre, Iain Black, B.C. Labour Minister, and Dave Hayer, MLA Surrey-Tynehead officially open the International Cybercrime Research Centre at SFU Surrey.

Surrey fights cybercrime

July 10, 2008

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By Terry Lavender

A new research centre to fight cybercrime is being established at SFU’s Surrey campus, thanks to a $350,000 grant from the provincial government.

The centre is a joint venture of SFU, the province, and the International Society for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB), a B.C.-based non-profit organization established to prevent and combat crimes on the Internet. The International Cybercrime Research Centre will be headed by Bill Glackman of SFU’s School of Criminology, says Rob Gordon, director of the school. It will investigate online crime trends and help to develop new tools to counter cybercrime.

The province is contributing $250,000 to SFU for physical space and a secure data centre for lab equipment. POLCYB receives $100,000 to help operate the centre.

Province Labour Minister Iain Black announced the grant at a ceremony at SFU Surrey on July 8.

"We are investing in research that will help to safeguard the province’s public-sector computer network against criminal misuse and strengthen British Columbia’s position as an international leader in information security and protection of privacy," said Black. The Centre will conduct research into Internet economic crimes, social networking-related crimes and analysis of ongoing trends.

As one of its initial projects the centre plans to develop virus scanner-like tools to detect child exploitation images.

"In the same way that a bad virus works by infecting machines, by hunting for certain symbols, so a good virus can operate in much the same way, like Pac-Man, actually starting to destroy particular forms of imagery on the Internet," said Gordon.

He says cybercrime is a huge and mostly unreported problem, with child pornography and identity theft the most serious issues. "Even when it is reported, there are significant law enforcement and prosecutorial problems principally because of the global nature of the phenomenon," he says. "For example, a fraud aimed at Canadian seniors can be triggered by individuals in another country on behalf of individuals in a third country and be passed through a server in a fourth country."

SFU will bring cross-disciplinary expertise in computing science, engineering, and criminology to the new centre. "There is no university in North America I’m aware of with a dedicated cybercrimes studies program," says Gordon. He expects huge demand at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as professional-studies certificate courses through Continuing Studies.

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