Policy recommendation: Responsible cloud

Reducing technology fraud and online exploitation

The opportunity

Cloud computing is revolutionizing how people work, learn, interact and play. As technology becomes an increasingly prominent part of many aspects of everyday life, more people are being brought into contact with it, whether they are children using educational technologies to learn in new ways or older people using technology to stay in contact with loved ones and access information more quickly and efficiently.

Social networks are another example of the way that new technologies are being used to connect people of all ages, allowing us to form new communities and connect with friends and colleagues. In addition, cloud services have become important vehicles through which people and governments advance fundamental values including freedom of expression, civic engagement, privacy and free access to information.

The challenge

At the same time, online services have given rise to new risks and new potential for harm, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. Predators can use connected technologies to create and distribute images of child sexual abuse and to solicit minors for sexual exploitation. Scammers trick people into believing that they have nonexistent malware or viruses on their computer and into paying for unnecessary tech support services.

Unfortunately, the methods that criminals deploy are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. Cybercrime is truly borderless, making investigation and enforcement across jurisdictions very difficult.

Policy recommendations

The unique challenges of protecting children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations require a coordinated and comprehensive response. In many cases, existing laws need to be updated to address current technologies and threats, balanced against the need to protect freedom of expression, individual privacy and vibrant innovation. These updated legal frameworks should promote industry best practices and the development of technology tools that consumers can use to help protect themselves. Some of these areas include:

Strengthen and enforce laws to deter creation of online exploitation and fraud. Many existing laws that are intended to fight fraud and the exploitation of minors were not written to address online crimes and, as a result, are not vigorously enforced. According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, 35 countries still do not have legislation that deals specifically with child sexual abuse images.[19] Of the 79 countries that do, 60 do not define child sexual abuse specifically and 26 do not address computer-based offenses. In addition, many laws criminalizing the creation and distribution of images of child sexual abuse are ill-suited to the new tactics of tech-savvy child predators. In parallel with other cybercriminals, child sex offenders use defensive forensic measures including anonymization and encryption of their online illegal activities to evade law enforcement. As governments update their laws to tackle these new threats, they should work closely with child rights, advocacy and support groups, as well as technology suppliers — all of which play a role in protecting children and families in the digital age.

Support public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships are essential to address the increasing variety and complexity of online threats. Governments, technology companies and online service providers should work together to develop and share technology tools and expertise, conduct awareness campaigns, and educate the public about online risks. To address child protection, governments should consider joining the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, a coalition that includes 70 countries along with technology companies and civil society organizations dedicated to eradicating child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

Promote international cooperation. Increasingly, online crimes involve perpetrators in one country and victims in another, which can hamper effective prosecution. For example, live-streaming child sexual abuse often involves victims in Southeast Asia with abusers in Europe and North America across encrypted platforms. Countries committed to addressing online child exploitation should join the Virtual Global Taskforce, which shares a common understanding that protection is often only achieved by global, not merely national, methods. Similarly, the International Mass Marketing Fraud Working Group brings together law enforcement agencies committed to cooperatively addressing mass marketing fraud (including tech support scams) that harm millions of individuals across multiple countries. These voluntary initiatives are important, but it is clear that more needs to be done. New international agreements and modernized mutual legal assistance treaties are needed to strengthen cross-border cooperation, information-sharing and enforcement.

Promote consumer education. Many online crimes can be avoided if people are better informed about how to identify threats and protect themselves. According to a Microsoft-supported survey, one in five customers have experienced a fraudulent interaction online. Millennials are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent email and intrusive pop-up advertisements. Alongside NGOs and the private sector, law enforcement should focus on consumer online safety education to help people identify threats and protect themselves. Education is important at every age, and can be tailored appropriately.

Support industry self-regulation. Even as governments work to address the risks associated with online services, they can promote an environment of technological innovation and industry self- regulation that provides the flexibility to respond to the rapidly changing nature of online threats, which can be difficult to achieve solely through legislation. Governments and industry should work together to establish safety principles, and service providers should be given the opportunity — and the responsibility — to determine the means of implementation.

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