If you are considering going into law enforcement, cyber security is an ideal minor or advanced degree when you think about the different ways the Internet is used in organized crime. Having a background in cyber security can make you more attractive in the job market and potentially qualify you for highly-specialized tasks within law enforcement in a cyber security career.
Human trafficking is an increasingly common problem. Unfortunately, the people caught in these types of crimes are often used for manual labor, with little to no compensation, or in other cases, children and adults become part of the sex trade. People are often smuggled across the border in inhumane conditions, with fatalities being common due to unsafe travel conditions. Additionally, there are also missing persons within the country who suffer the same fate. Law enforcement personnel who are working to prevent human trafficking remain vigilant on the Internet, including the dark web, for websites that are designed to connect prospective clients with prostitutes or workers.
Although there are many illegal websites on the dark web, human trafficking and other crimes frequently occurs in plain sight by using social media platforms and online classified advertisements. Law enforcement personnel may go undercover as a prospective client, worker, or child, in an attempt to lure people who engage in these illicit activities. Sometimes IP addresses can be used to track down criminals or rescue victims from their captors.
Illegal drugs can come in the form of "street drugs" and illegal online pharmacies. As far as street drugs are concerned, the major task of law enforcement is not just arresting drug users and low-level dealers. Determining how drugs are manufactured, whether within the states or abroad, and sold in large quantities remains the major motivation for law enforcement. Both the Internet and mobile phones are frequently used by large-scale drug manufacturers and dealers to arrange shipments. Intercepting these conversations will allow law enforcement to catch shipments that might arrive via various modes of transportation, such as in cars crossing the border, cargo shipments, or even drug "mules" traveling by airplane. Part of reducing the smuggling of illicit drugs also includes weeding out the "bad guys" who might work as baggage handlers for major airlines or border control agents.
Illegal online pharmacies are another threat. Generally, these pharmacies exist to disburse controlled substances to people who cannot obtain a legitimate prescription. In many cases, the medications that are dispensed have filler ingredients and may not have any trace of the purchased substance. Even if a customer is not buying controlled substances, it is still illegal and unsafe to take medications without a prescription and with no guarantee of its safety. Additionally, there is also the concern of certain medications being purchased illegally in a large-enough quantity by those who are suicidal.
Since 9/11, counterterrorism has been a priority, not only to help keep people who are potential threats from entering the country, but also identifying people who are already in the country who may hold terrorist ideologies. Cyber security remains an invaluable tool to find these people before they can create a plan and perform an act of terrorism. Law enforcement agents specializing in counterterrorism scour the web looking websites, social media accounts, and videos that might be used to incite acts of violence.
Although the possibility of someone entering the country as a terrorist remains a realistic concern, an even greater concern are people, either those who have lived in the country for many years or were born in this country, who become radicalized via online videos and other information. Scrutinizing social media posts and which IP addresses visit suspicious websites can give law enforcement a general idea of individuals who need to be watched closely. This information is often coordinated with government agencies, such as the FBI or CIA, who have the capabilities for more intensive surveillance of potential treats.
Cyber security is an area of study that can easily be merged with law enforcement or criminal justice programs. Having specialized training in cyber security can help you find a job at the local, state, or federal level addressing some of the most pressing legal concerns funneled through the Internet.