media release

Web crawler takes virtual bite out of cybercrime

March 03, 2014

Richard Frank, 778.782.4158; (will be at open house til about 5:30 p.m.)
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017;

Simon Fraser University researcher Richard Frank is helping to take a virtual bite out of cybercrime. His web crawler, designed to track websites that exploit children, will be among the School of Criminology’s demonstrations at the SFU Surrey campus Global Community Open House on March 6.

Frank developed the web crawler as a PhD student to enable researchers to collect and analyze massive web page samples—more than 200,000 at a time— while remaining “safe” from the content they are tracking.

“We’ve been working on a longitudinal project looking at the life-cycle of these child exploitation websites,” says Frank, an assistant professor and researcher in SFU’s International Centre for Cybercrime Research.  “Our goal is to understand more about the sites that host this type of content, when they are created, how content shifts and how these sites evolve.”

Frank’s team is also using the web crawler to retrieve extremist websites. The researchers want to learn more about their recruitment process. “We’re slowly moving into analyzing their forums to find interesting discussions, and explore their social networks,” he says.

Visitors to the March. 6 open house will also hear from Rick Parent, an assistant professor in the school who teaches in SFU’s popular Police Studies program.

The program covers everything from crime prevention and restorative justice to crime analysis and forensic studies. Courses are taught at the Surrey campus, which is also home to a new forensic criminal intelligence analysis lab. There, students are honing high-level crime investigation skills through a unique arrangement with the Vancouver Police Department. Special Constable Ryan Prox teaches the course, which has generated a long waiting list, and plans are to develop further collaborations with Surrey RCMP.

Meanwhile young visitors to the open house can try their hand at ‘target practice’ with Nerf guns while learning more about criminology offerings.

The Surrey campus annual open house draws more than 3,000 visitors and will feature an array of hands-on exhibits from each of SFU’s eight faculties. Visitors can take part in robot battles, experience how music aids pain management, test “wearable” technology, dress in “period” costumes, catch live science experiments and interact with touchable sea creatures, to name just a few offerings.

There will also be information sessions, a discussion on transit, an array of cultural performances, tours of the award-winning campus, games and food. Details on academic programs, student services and admission will also be available. For more information see:

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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