HomeSecurity ArchitectureCybercrime victims who lack English proficiency are undercounted and poorly protected

Cybercrime victims who lack English proficiency are undercounted and poorly protected

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The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a vital component in the FBI’s efforts to combat cybercrime, is known for providing educational resources to help individuals and businesses protect themselves from cyberthreats. The center also allows victims to report their victimization through the submission of complaints related to internet crimes and publishes annual reports summarizing the state of internet crime, trends, and notable cases.

However, the information and resources, as well as the reporting form, posted on the center’s website are only available in English, leaving out many individuals with limited English proficiency. This exclusion not only puts these individuals at a higher risk of cyberthreats but also results in incomplete and inaccurate Internet Crime Reports.

The lack of information and resources in languages other than English further contributes to the widening “security gap” between those who can manage and mitigate cybersecurity threats and those who cannot. Moreover, since there isn’t a reporting mechanism and structure for people with limited English proficiency, data and statistics on cyber victimization within this population are severely limited.

In the United States, a criminologist and their colleagues conducted focus groups with a sample of adult internet users with limited English proficiency to examine their experiences with different forms of cybercrime. The study found that participants encountered various forms of cyber victimization, including phishing emails, computer viruses, online harassment, and online scams. However, the study also revealed that many of the participants did not engage in cybersecurity measures, highlighting the vulnerability of this population to cyberthreats.

In recognition of the need to address language access issues, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum directing the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to share best practices and exchange information about language access with other federal agencies. This effort is in line with Executive Order 13166, which requires federal agencies to improve access to services for people with limited English proficiency.

To close the security gap and attain accurate data and statistics on cyber victimization, it is crucial to include victims with limited English proficiency in data collection efforts. Additionally, public campaigns related to health and safety are often available in multiple languages to reach diverse audiences, and similar efforts should be made to ensure that all users, regardless of their language skills, have the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from cybercrime. As cybercrime continues to be one of the fastest-growing security threats in the U.S., addressing language barriers in cybersecurity resources and reporting mechanisms is essential for promoting safety and security for all individuals.

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