Keynote on Future Crimes: INTERPOL’s Marc Goodman

When it comes to future crimes, it may be tempting to dismiss concepts like robotic crime, artificial intelligence crime, and others. After all, we’ve got enough problems in the present, and no one can predict the future.

Or can they? Marc Goodman, Senior Advisor at Interpol Steering Committee on Information Technology Crime, argues that these are hardly concepts — they are already reality. We talked more with him about his keynote presentation, which describes why and how:

HTCIA: You’re speaking about highly technical subjects. How far in the future are they — closer than we think, or far enough to have time to think?

Most cybercrime investigators already have enough work to do and none of us is hurting for more cases. That said, I think it is important to look at what”s coming next in cybercrime. Though some of the issues I will be discussing sound far off (Robotic Crime, Artificial Intelligence Crime, Satellite Crime), in fact, these issues are already here.

There are real-world case examples of all the new forms of crime to be discussed. That said, most are not very common…just yet anyway. I think one of my favorite quotes will answer your question perfectly: “The future is already here, it is just not very widely distributed yet.” (William Gibson, Neuromancer).

In other words, these things are occurring everyday, though most are not aware of it. My goal is to help raise awareness of these issues and plot a public response to them.

HTCIA: Some examples are here and now (terrorists recruiting on MMPORPGs), Hollywood (robotics in law enforcement), or apparently superfluous (virtual goods theft, rape). Why and how are they relevant?

Law enforcement has always played catch-up. Throughout history bad guys have always had access to technology long before police officers. Whether discussing cars, automatic weapons, pagers, mobile phones or the Internet–police have always tried to retrospectively figure out what criminals were doing and then had to beg for funding to respond.

Cops see the trends early on, but it takes a long-time to ramp-up and get adequate resources to respond. Given the rapid pace at which technology is moving forward, playing catch-up all the time may put society and our future at significant risk. Therefore, I think it is critically important to study and respond to future forms of criminality now–before it is too late.

HTCIA: Most agencies nowadays are struggling with lack of resources to police the real world. How could they balance the two?

This is a really tough question, particularly given the state of our economy and the number of agencies actually laying off police personnel. As a former street-cop, I clearly understand that drive-by shootings and child abductions will always outrank more esoteric forms of criminality.

That said, much could be accomplished via effective partnerships with the private and educational sectors. It doesn’t cost anything for an investigator to visit a professor of robotics or AI at the local college or university. I think in particular there is a large role to be played by the federal government and its various law enforcement research arms such as NIJ and NCJRS.

Also, many of these emerging technologies have already been exploited by the military and defense communities, each of which offer technology-transfer programs for police agencies.

In summary, I am not suggesting every cop needs training in robotic operating system forensics, but I am suggesting that, particularly in large departments, it might not be a bad idea to have at least one person think about these issues occasionally.

HTCIA: How did you become interested in these areas — what made you move from more conventional cybercrime topics to the future?

I’ve been working in the high-tech crime field for almost 20 years. To be honest, I had become a bit bored with the standard questions we were hashing-out and re-hashing all the time. “Cybercrime is bad; we need greater international cooperation; public-private partnerships are important.”

I had heard the same themes repeated over and over again at dozens of conferences over the years. With absolutely no disrespect to any of my colleagues, I just felt we needed to move the conversation forward and become more proactive.

Cybercrime of 1990 or 2005 will have little in common with the technical threats we are facing in 2010 and beyond. The absolute game changer is the ubiquity of technology. Previously computers were big white boxes with television-sized monitors on our desks. As anybody today knows, thanks to Moore’s Law, the iPhone can do all the same things.

What people perhaps haven’t yet realized is that their refrigerators, cars and photocopiers all have hard drives in them. GPS forensics and location-based forensics will explode in the near future. We are producing more data than ever and it will be an increasing struggle to analyze it all. Today the Roomba robot vacuums the floor; tomorrow it may protect your home and actually fight off intruders.

Though it sounds like science fiction to some, I absolutely believe that we are on the verge of a new type of cybercrime revolution. I’d like to help move the conversation forward and develop a plan of response for the good-guys now, before it is too late.

HTCIA: Anything else you’d like attendees to know before they hear you talk?

Come in with an open mind and be prepared to have your assumptions challenged. 😉

Questions for Marc? Leave a comment and let us know!

Image: kevindooley via Flickr

3 Responses to Keynote on Future Crimes: INTERPOL’s Marc Goodman

  1. Keith Stone says:

    Marc, do you have more detailed information on the future of cybercrime than what’s in this article?

  2. […] Marc Goodman of the Cybercrime Research Institute will talk virtual world crimes on Monday, discussing both virtual worlds and multimedia roleplaying games. In addition to his website and tweeting at, Marc graciously provided more details about his lecture and his keynote in an interview on our blog – read it here! […]

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