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Cybercrime warrior

When Kathy Macdonald goes to work, she's fully armed. But her weapons of choice are PowerPoint and e-mail, the tools she most often uses in her battle against cybercrime.


August 12, 2009
By Kathleen Sibley

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Macdonald, Acting-Sgt., Calgary Police Services, has been educating the local community on preventing identity theft and promoting Internet safety since 2002.

“My job has been mainly education and awareness, so PowerPoint has been my most important defence tool,” Macdonald says.

She also has attained Certified Protection Professional designation, and belongs to the Calgary chapter of ASIS International.

Recently awarded an Order of Merit of the Police Forces by Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, Macdonald says she’s honoured to be recognized not just by the community she works in, but by the security professionals she works with as well.

“For me it has been really gratifying to get so many congratulations from people in the security community,” says Macdonald. “They (security professionals) are highly regarded experts. I think of them as mentors in many cases because they’re so knowledgeable.”



That expertise is essential in just trying to keep up with ever-evolving cybercrime.
In a recent news story, a gang of cyberthieves is said to have come up with an apparently new and creative way of committing crime online. According to the report, the thieves sold several songs to online music stores, then downloaded them thousands of times using stolen credit cards – and consequently reaped the rewards from the royalties.

“It’s all about the money now,” says Macdonald. “A few years ago it was for fame, but now it’s becoming enormously profitable and there is for the most part minimal risk of getting caught, due to the fact that cybercrime is borderless and such a challenge to investigate.”

And cyber criminals, like their real-world counterparts, have no ethics, she adds. “Teenagers give out information and make unsafe choices, and cybercriminals don’t care who they are victimizing, so as police we need to find solutions and programs that offer more training.”

Canada also needs to be able to prosecute cybercriminals vigorously and harmonize legislation with other countries, as well as work more closely with the security industry, researchers and governments on a global scale, she says. Fortunately, some advances are being made.

“I think law enforcement is collaborating more with the security community because they’ve got the experts; they understand the products and how they work,” she says. “It’s all about working together.”
In Calgary, physical, forensic and information security organizations and law enforcement have collaborated on a number of initiatives, such as donating money for prizes given to winners of an online safety contest as part of Online Safety Week.



Another initiative that Macdonald works on that involves security professionals is through the Global Centre for Securing Cyberspace, which recently hosted a training course for 120 police officers, security industry practitioners and loss prevention specialists on investigating crime committed through EBay and PayPal.
Such collaborative efforts go a long way toward remediating the challenges police often face in dealing with cybercrime, she says.

“I think for the most part the police community is hampered by a lack of training and resources and that’s why being able to work with a community that has the experts and understands the tools because they’ve developed them is so important in both preventing and trying to mitigate cybercrime,” says Macdonald.

According to Glen Kitteringham, director, security and life safety at Brookfield Properties in Calgary, relatively few active (as opposed to retired) law enforcement officers belong to ASIS. The Calgary chapter, for example, has more than 200 members, but only a dozen or so are law enforcement officers.

Macdonald’s participation makes the organization stronger, he says.
“It’s one of our mandates (at ASIS),” he says. “Police have to look at new ways to streamline video capture and management, or they’ll soon be overwhelmed by the number of requests they receive.”

Macdonald, he adds, really cares about forming partnerships between the security industry and law enforcement. “It’s her passion and desire to reach out to everyone who has a stake in security and to get everybody working together,” he says.


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