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SFU’s first cybercrime prof logs in

September 24, 2009

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SFU’s first cybercrime professor doubts that child pornography on the Internet will ever be completely eliminated, but she says it’s still necessary to fight it.

Sara Smyth, an associate professor in the School of Criminology, began teaching cybercrime at the SFU Surrey campus this fall. An SFU graduate who once practiced law in Vancouver, she returned to the West Coast from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Smyth says despite increased public awareness, internet-based child pornography is on the rise. "In the last six months in the province of Ontario alone there were as many as 70,000 independent IP addresses making child pornography available on peer-to-peer networks.

"We would be fooling ourselves to think we can eradicate child pornography or catch all of the bad guys trading child pornography images and exploiting children on the Web."

More disturbingly, she says, the age of the children featured in the images is getting younger and the images are becoming more graphic. "Images are being made of infants and toddlers being sexually assaulted and some of the images are extremely violent and sadistic."

Smyth is researching other types of online criminal activity as well, including "hacking, denial of service attacks, child luring and even "real-space" crimes like terrorism, money laundering and the purchase/sale of illegal drugs."

Education and research are essential to combatting cybercrime, says Smyth. She’s hoping to organize conferences to bring together others in the emerging field and to secure funding for new research projects.

"I’d also like to increase the number of cybercrime courses SFU offers and increase public awareness of these issues."

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