The offline side of cybercrime: Mapping involvement mechanisms in cybercriminal networks


Cybercrime is on the rise. By definition, cybercrime takes place in the online world. However, people committing cybercrimes are real human beings in an offline environment, often cooperating in networks. Surprisingly little is known about the interplay between the offline and online worlds and the processes leading to the involvement of individuals in cybercriminal networks. Existing cybercrime studies concentrate on the cyber aspect of the crime and limit their scope to the online world. Thus, for example, the extent to which offline and online social ties provide access to cybercriminal networks, and whether cybercriminals use offline meeting places, remains unknown.

My proposal goes beyond current studies by including the offline world. I specifically seek to reveal the ways in which the offline and online worlds are intertwined in the functioning of cybercriminal networks, mapping two important pathways into criminal networks: (1) offline and online social contacts, and (2) offline and online meeting places. Furthermore, I will examine the effects of the use of these involvement mechanisms on the composition of networks.
Due to my position in the cybercrime field, I can combine three unique datasets: longitudinal data on criminal networks from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor, real-time data on online meeting places and online interactions of cybercriminals from the Dutch Team High Tech Crime, and an insider view on involvement mechanisms based on offender interviews.

My study is relevant to both science and society. The scientific contribution concerns the improvement and upgrade of traditional criminological theories on involvement mechanisms, making them ‘future-proof’. Furthermore, by including both the offline and online worlds, my results form a solid foundation for future cybercrime research by correcting the ‘online bias’ in current research. The societal contribution concerns the provision of law enforcement agencies with knowledge to effectively combat cybercriminal networks.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. E.R. Leukfeldt

Affiliated with

Nederlands Studiecentrum Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving

Team members

Dr. E.R. Leukfeldt


01/02/2018 to 31/12/2021