Digital Literacy

A Review of the Documentary ‘Cyber Crime’

Cyber Crime is a 2019 documentary, directed by Jeff Roldan, which shares the insights of cybersecurity experts on the evolution of cybercrime, the threat it poses, and ways to combat it.  The producers (SMB Networks LLC, 2019)  describe cybercrime as a “growing plague in our expanding digital world.” Their documentary supports their argument so effectively that viewers could walk away with the feeling that the fight against cybercrime is unwinnable, and the best that they can do is ensure ourselves against attacks.  However, those involved in the cybersecurity industry, cyberlaw, law enforcement, and drafting cyber-legislation may view the scenarios presented in the film as challenges and reasons to improve or adopt new strategies in the fight against cybercrime. 

The documentary explains that cybercrime has existed since the introduction of the computer, but, as Will Nobles (Roldan, 2019), the CEO of Vector Choice Technology Solutions, states in the film, became a more serious issue with the evolution of networking and internet technology.  During the first ten minutes of 1h 15 min, the film explains that hacking for profit is big business, debunks the stereotype of hackers as teenagers sitting in basements dressed in black hoodies, and asks the viewer to envision companies with 50 or more office workers, whose 9 to 5 job is hacking the computer systems of businesses and wealthy individuals for the purpose of stealing or extorting money or data which they or their employer can sell on the Dark Web.  According to the film, there are approximately 1.2 million new threats every day, $1.5 trillion of illegal transactions were conducted on the Dark Web in 2018, and the reason that cybercrime is so lucrative is that it is almost impossible for law enforcement to identify the perpetrators (Roldan, 2019).

Ryan Weeks, Chief Information Security Office at Datto explains the various ways that hackers make money such as:  gaining access to your environment through a device and performing reconnaissance; siphoning of an individual’s or company’s data (i.e., corporate spying); using one individual as a conduit or stepping stone to access the information of another person or entity; using an individual to gain access to a network in order to distribute ransomware; and,  installing software to mine cryptocurrency (Roldan, 2019).   

One of the revelations that viewers may find particularly unsettling is that medical records have become a prime target for hackers.  According to the film, every medical record has enough information in to steal your identity, and the first couple of pages of a medical record are worth $50 on the Dark Web (Roldan, 2019).  As Fred Sagester, CEO of Sagester Associates Group, states in the film, “the criminals know that they can get ten times more selling medical information than selling financial information.” Viewers are presented with scenarios of hacked medical facilities and what happens when those facilities cannot access patient data. 

The film also provides good explanations of: the “Surface Web”, the internet which most of us see and know; the ‘Deep Web” which is used by programmers and developers and requires secure authentication;  and, the “Dark Web” which is a part of the deep web but is now used as an internet black-market where you can purchase anything from the code for computer viruses, to credit card information to drug and guns. 

The target audiences for the documentary are business owners and corporate Information Technology (IT) decision-makers, and at times the presenters promote their businesses. services, speaking tours, and books.  However, the documentary avoids becoming an infomercial by offering valuable cybersecurity information for both individuals as well as small and large business owners.  The documentary provides a general overview of cybercrime history and the motives and methods of cyber-criminals. However, it focuses on cyber trespass, cyber-deception, theft, and extortion rather than the crimes of cyber-porn and obscenity, and cyber-violence.  One of the most powerful moments in the documentary is when Leah Freiman, CEO of ITCon, Inc., explains that anyone can be the victim of a cyberattack, not just businesses or wealthy persons that suffer cyberattacks.  Freiman (Roldan, 2019)  shares the experience of a woman in Texas who reached out to her after she had been hacked.   

The woman, who became Freiman’s client, reported that a hacker was sending her messages every single day. One day he sent flowers to her office; other days, he sent nasty letters.  One day the hacker even sent a letter of resignation to her employer that appeared to have come from her.  When the victim contacted her local police, she was advised to just ignore it and change your phone.  When she contacted the FBI, she was advised to just change her accounts.  Over time the woman moved from one place in Texas to another, changed her telephone number, home address, and email.  After a period of prolonged harassment, the woman felt so overwhelmed that she emailed Freiman and said that she was considering committing suicide.

 The twist to this incident was that this harassment stemmed from the actions of the woman’s daughter, who had downloaded a flashlight app to her smartphone (Roldan, 2019).  The app had an embedded virus that allowed the hacker to take over the camera on the daughter’s smartphone.  The app allowed the hacker to see what was going on in the victim’s house.   This woman was not wealthy or a business owner.  She was simply a victim of a sadistic hacker.  When you consider this incident based on the facts of the Amanda Todd case, there is a possibility that the client’s daughter was the intended target for harassment, and for some reason, the hacker’s attention gravitated towards the mother.  It is also possible that the hacker intended to use the daughter as a conduit to access the mother’s information for blackmail but discovered that the mother was not wealthy. 

The takeaways from this documentary are: cybercrime in the form of hacking for profit currently accounts for 15% of the global economy; the stereotype of a teenager sitting in a basement with a hoodies does not match today’s hacker for profit;  there are approximately 1.2 million new threats every day;  it’s almost impossible to police due to both the anonymity of the internet and the fact that the activities cross international boundaries; and, both individuals and companies need to become more cyber-aware and understand that anything that is computerized and networked can be hacked. 

As Fred Sagester states in the film, social media contributed to the exponential rise in cybercrime because in the late 90s and early 2000s, “everyone was running to tell the entire world about their lives” (Roldan, 2019).  As Sagester states, “If I’m a criminal, the more I know about somebody, the easier it is to hack in and steal their information” (Roldan, 2019).  However, individuals’ social media behavior is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle that cybercriminals used to build a profile of a potential target.  A person can become a target even if they do not have a social media profile by a friend or family member’s behavior. Apps can gather personally identifiable information such phone numbers and addresses from smartphone contact lists and, as in the case of Leah Freiman’s client, apps can be infected with malware which allows a hacker to hijack devices and use their cameras and microphones.  And in the age of the “internet of things”, hackers can get information from everything from SIRI, to your HVAC system to your car.

As we’ve been studying in this course, many of the US criminal codes, as well as state criminal laws and statutes, are not consistent in their definitions of cybercrimes and have not kept pace with advances in technology.  The Cyber Crime documentary does an excellent job of explaining the cybercrime crisis and the complexity of addressing it.  As a Librarian Science student, I am interested in the topic of cybersecurity for several reasons, including the development of internet safety and cyber-safety instructional programming and resource materials in library settings, library database, and network security; and internet privacy policy.   I would highly recommend that if a library could obtain a license to host a public screening of this film, that they do so. 

Works Cited

Roldan, J. (2019). Cyber Crime [Prime video (online streaming)]. United States: Creative Realm Entertainment.

SMB Networks LLC. (2019, April 19). New Documentary Film, CYBER CRIME, Its Not a Question of “If,” It’s a Question of “When.” PR.Com. Retrieved from

Pamela L. Kemp
November 5, 2019