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Tackling cyber stalking – fresh ideas from the sixth form

Last week, Principle One hosted three sixth form students from Kew House School in West London and Lilian Baylis Technology School just down the road in Lambeth. We set Mabinty, Henry and Wiktor the challenge of developing new and innovative ways they could support the investigation of cyber stalking – with a bit of help from the Principle One team.

Over the course of the week, we gave them an overview of a range of Business Analysis skills and introduced them to agile ways of working before setting them up in a sandbox for development. This is their story of the week and what they achieved.

Incidences of cyber stalking have become more and more common over the past few years and cyber stalking is one of the few crimes which grew during lockdown, with stalking offences often committed without the perpetrator needing to leave their house. As a crime type, it is particularly difficult to both investigate and then prepare a case for court. With most stalking cases involving a close relationship or former relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, victims are often reluctant to believe that they are the victim of a crime at the outset and will later drop the case due to the emotional distress caused. Stalking cases can last for months and even years, with escalation from threatening messages and online harassment into physical violence.

The first task for our team was to build their understanding of the problem, considering the different stakeholders involved, the challenges faced and the desired outcomes. Based on this initial motivation model, they were able to generate a range of different ideas, before eventually settling on building an application that would support the gathering of evidence from the very start of an investigation, making it easier both to prepare a case for prosecution and to spot patterns of escalation as early as possible.

To help understand the complexity of an investigation and the challenges of consolidating data, the Principle One team had pulled together a “case file”; an assortment of social media messages and digital data captured and made available for analysis. Building on a core set of features they identified and at the midway point of their placement, it was now time to start getting hands on and doing some prototyping.

We had provided the team with a sandbox environment to start bringing their ideas to life. Firstly, we introduced them to Balsamiq, a rapid prototyping toolset that they could quickly begin to mock up their case building application, before moving on to working with Microsoft Power Apps and Power BI.

This was actually Wiktor’s second work experience placement with Principle One, and having a spent a week with us in 2021, he was keen to come back to get some more hands on experience before starting his Computer Science degree in the autumn. “I really enjoyed that we were able to start prototyping this year and enjoyed designing and then building our prototype with Balsamiq. I wish I’d known about the tool when I was doing project work as part of my A levels – it helped us work at speed and made it easy to present our ideas to a wider team.”

For Mabinty, analysing the data was what really grabbed her attention and she took the lead on creating data visualisation tools for the prototype. “I loved the data analysis work and working with Power BI. I reckon a month more and I will be an expert and I’d love to learn more about working in data science.” Mabinty had been worried that her sixth form courses wouldn’t have equipped her well for the placement, but found she was able to draw on her Health and Social care studies to consider safeguarding issues and bring a different dimension to the team’s analysis of the problem.

Henry was also slightly apprehensive about the placement, not coming from a technical background but considering business studies as a future degree option. “The training we got in agile ways of working and business analysis has really helped me improve my problem solving techniques, which I’ve already applied to my course work at school. I’ve also found exploring the cyber stalking problem really interesting as it made me think differently and dig deeper to understand the harm caused.”

To wrap up the week, the team were given one last challenge, to run a Lunch and Learn on the topic of cyber stalking and their ideas to tackle it, with a hybrid presentation to the Principle One team both in our office and working remotely. They nailed it – grabbing our attention and provoking a lot of discussion among our subject matter experts on how we could build on their ideas. They impressed us throughout the week in many ways; their collaborative teamwork, playing to each other’s strengths, the thoroughness of their analysis and their focus and ability to take their ideas forward into the prototype.

The last word, however, comes from Henry. “This was a brilliant one week work experience in which I learnt how to analyse and solve complex problems, which I have been able to adapt and use in my course work already. This was an amazing opportunity for me, and I really loved working in a calm and relaxed environment with such a warm welcome from the Principle One team.”


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