Monday, April 19, 2010

The Future of High-Technology Crime: A Parallel Delphi Study

This study conducted by Larry E. Coutorie in 1995 is a follow-up to a 1980s study using the Delphi Technique to forecast the future of high-technology crimes. One of the purposes of this study is to give law enforcement a forecast of where high-tech crimes are headed, since most other techniques only allow reactionary responses.

The Experiment:
The study was conducted using two panels. One was comprised of “traditional” experts, or people already in the high-tech law enforcement field, and “nontraditional” experts, member of hacker and cracker groups recommended by other experts. Two groups on experts were sent three rounds of questionnaires with the following questions, refined each time by the groups’ responses to the previous questionnaire.
  1. In your opinion, what area(s) of high technology will be the focus of criminal activity in the next ten years?
  2. What form(s) do you believe this activity will take?
  3. What steps should be taken now to prepare the police to combat this criminal activity?
  4. Do you believe the responsibility for criminal investigation of high-technology crimes will be primarily that of government or private businesses? Why?
  5. Do you believe the responsibility for crime prevention activities regarding high-technology crimes will be primarily that of government or private businesses? Why?
Each groups’ perspective diverged significantly from the first round of questioning onward. However, at the end of the three questionnaires, a consensus on several issues was identified.
  • Likely high-tech future crime areas include computer system attacks via telecommunications, a growing increase in computer-assisted fraud, and computer assisted data manipulation or theft.
  • Crime will take the form of software piracy, increased incidents of computer assisted counterfeiting, increased incidents of financial fraud, and increased attacks on computer systems via advanced technologies.
  • Preventative steps recommended include recruitment of individual with computer knowledge, increased public/private partnership, more training for law enforcement officers earlier in their career, and legislation that better defines jurisdiction.
  • At the time of this study experts forecasted private business would conduct the initial investigation and have an active participatory role in government investigations.
  • They also forecasted that private businesses would be responsible for protecting their own assets, with government assistance in identifying potential threats.


  1. Were the panels given access to any data or was this purely what they felt? Do the two panels discuss the topics together or separately and then meet together? It is interesting that after a third round a consensus was identified, showing that the method is most successful when repeated.

  2. Has there been an updated study done in this field? Has the FBI done any studies with high-technology crimes?

  3. In reply to Lindy's questions, panelists were experts in their fields with extensive knowledge of high-tech crimes and law enforcement or evading law enforcement as the case may be. Each brought their personal wealth of knowledge and experience which informed their forecasts. The two panels are not recorded as having interaction with each other. Each panel's second and third round questionnaires were informed exclusively based on their own group's previous responses.

  4. In response to mnapolitano's question, I'm not sure if there has been any follow-up studies, but I think it is interesting comparing their forecasts to today's climate. Because the study was conducted in 1995, looking at the 1995-2005 time frame allows us to compare their forecasts with reality. I don't know if the FBI has done any separate studies, but 3 FBI agents were on the panel, along with a FLETC instructor and member of the Air Force OSI which I think presented a broad range of expertise and law enforcement perspectives.

  5. I'm curious as to which panel's consensus aligned more closely with the actual progression of high tech crime.