Criminal Justice Degree Guide: Cybercrimes
The internet began as a collection of disconnected computer networks used by academic institutions and government agencies to quickly share information and carry on discussions. Since then it has grown exponentially, requiring even small, local businesses to grab web space to remain visible. While these developments have allowed the dotcom bubbles of the late 1990s and unprecedented levels of marketing, they have also drawn the attention of miscreants with intentions to manipulate data and people for personal gain. These deviants employ powerful internet technologies to navigate to protected files and information in committing criminal acts from simple harassment to identity theft and data brokering.
In the new world of digital information no one who uses the internet is completely secure from hacking attempts. Everyone now has a responsibility to understand the vulnerability of their computer systems and the technology available to protect them from loss. Programmers and computer scientists have special interest in computer crime to create software free of defects that allow unauthorized access. Legal professionals too have a duty to stay on top of trends in cybercrime to advocate for new laws and approaches to catch the crooks and deter criminal acts. By collecting information on the occurrence, ramifications and elusiveness of computer crime we aim to provide current and future employees of the justice system with the knowledge they need to curb the trends of criminal activity on the web.
Since the year 2000 the number of reported cybercrimes has increased greatly, from only 16,000 to over 300,000. This trend shows no sign of diminishing with the continued adoption of computers for more of our daily activities. These resources offer explanations of the different methods of computer crime and its impact on our society.
- “What is Cybercrime, how does it differ from traditional criminal methods?” are the questions that pop up when first encountering the term. This article explains the many acts that constitute cybercrime and the trends of individuals and companies to document and address the resulting issues.
- By separating the forms of cybercrime into discernible categories, 9 Types of Cybercrime elucidates the mechanisms criminals exploit to gain access to valuable information. It is necessary reading for anyone who needs to protect sensitive data and ensure their online privacy.
- The Justice Department’s Computer Crime & Intellectual Property division publishes press releases on recent computer crimes from around the United States. It instructs individuals and businesses on how to prevent cybercrime by implementing security features and what to do in case of an intrusion.
- Cyber Crime & Doing Time reports on current scams and trends in the computer crime community to keep users safe in the changing landscape of the web. They draw data from around the world to ascertain the public costs of computer crime and document precedence in digital legislation.
- The FBI documents statistics on the style, regularity and severity of cyber attacks through their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). While it does give an overview of the different methods used to compromise security over computer networks many attacks are not recorded, allowing for substantial error in the data.
Cybercrime is as diverse as traditional criminal acts in the ways it can be carried out. Creativity and adaptability are essential characteristics of computer criminals in undermining the flaws of network infrastructure. Here are a few important cases in cybercrime history and their outcomes.
- The Melissa virus of 1999 tore through computer systems across the world and caused widespread damage to business and government operations. It was found to be the work of a single person, who only received 20 months in prison but can never access a computer again without prior court approval.
Harassment, Stalking and Bullying
Like harassment in the real world, online tormentors use scare tactics and emotional leverage to disturb and manipulate their targets. Since the internet offers a sense of anonymity individuals who would not normally commit these acts in public often resort to cyber attacks to present their messages. The definitions and significance of cyber harassment are laid out in the following materials.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a database of state laws on the punishments doled out for instances of heckling online. These types of attack are becoming more common with the explosion of social media and its juvenile user base.
Scams, Fraud & Identity Theft
Every day people submit their personal information to websites and trust that its transmission is secure. Hackers can gain access to this data at the time of transmission, on the receiving servers or by tracking the user’s inputs. Below you can find information on the different types of scam and techniques to protect your information from unauthorized access.
- The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams helps people new to the internet world dodge the most virulent methods criminals use to gain access to private information. While most of the information is the simple dos and don’ts of surfing the web, some gives more advanced tips for configuring browsers and creating passwords to maximize security.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s advice for online scams focuses on the misleading claims of web advertisements and how to recognize them. It describes the unique features of the internet that make it conducive to these scams.
- The FBI lists the common types of fraudulent activities that occur on the web. For each type of fraud discussed they offer tips for safe online practices to use while browsing.
Spam and Obscenity
Both spam and obscene material including pornography, hate speech and libel are illegal activities with common usage on the web. While the laws are fuzzy in defining spam, they do set out clear guidelines to detect and prosecute those posting obscene materials to the web. Below you can find information on the deterrent measures for these acts and the legal definition of their characteristics.
- Support Vector Machines analyze received text for evidence of spam to remove unsolicited information. Their use has been promoted by academics and internet experts as a more effective method of combating spam.
- The Communications Decency Act sparked controversy over how committed the government is to combating online indecency and those who enable it. This interview with a law professor and digital activist sheds light on the complex accountability for online obscenity.
- There is always tension between the aims of artists to display their work and laws regulating their freedom of expression.
Piracy and Theft
While the music and movie industries may suffer the most due to piracy, many companies are vulnerable without even realizing it. Sensitive data is often kept in unencrypted files on drives with constant connection to the internet. This data may be leaked in the same way music and video files are plundered and distributed in pirate communities. The threats piracy poses and its prevalence are highlighted below.
- What is Online Piracy? probes what constitutes online theft and what the perpetrators believe they are gaining through their infringement. It is a balanced article, incorporating viewpoints from both sides of the argument to emphasize the complexity and controversy of digital ownership.
- Corporate Identity Theft is a rising trend in cybercrime and poses huge risks to the financial viability of a company. This article advises caution to prevent potential fallout and reminds businesses to stay vigilant against the adaptive world of crime.
Many businesses today rely on their online visibility and services to turn a profit. Criminals take advantage of this dependence and launch attacks to disrupt operations and even shut down entire servers for extended periods of time. Below is information on how to identify and prevent crippling attacks to network infrastructure.
- Tracking and tracing cyber attacks is difficult since the web is already a domain of anonymity and hackers employ many methods to hide their identity. This article discusses the techniques investigators use and the essential problems that allow hackers to go unnoticed.
- The British-North American Committee Cyber Attack Primer warns CEOs of the dangers that cyber attack poses for their company by drawing attention to cases of improper or lacking security measures. It outlines strategies for businesses to adopt in thwarting attempted intrusions.
- While banks and other financial institutions are often targets of cyber attack, they remain in the crosshairs due to lax restriction and oversight of their networks. This interview advises ways they can stay ahead of the criminals and implement systems to combat cybercrime.
Corporate espionage is almost as old as corporations themselves, with documented court cases from the early 20th century relating stories of greed and corruption. With the turn to digital mediums to speed production and safeguard data, businesses have more opportunities than ever to spy on each other. While sensitive data may lie behind firewalls and password protected directories, hackers can find ways to penetrate these defenses and retrieve information to sell to the competition. Here are some examples of corporate espionage and discussions of its ubiquity on the World Wide Web.
- Corporate Espionage is alive and well in the dotcom sector and practically any company with sensitive files on unencrypted, networked machines is vulnerable. The article presents “Climategate” and the China-Google affair as examples of the growing risks firms face in protecting digitized data.
- India has recently been the target of many digital spies attempting to steal important information from their bustling economic sector. The reasons for this growing trend are analyzed through this Asia Times piece.
Cyberterrorism and Cyberwarfare
The systems that keep countries running, including financial, transportation and energy sectors, are rapidly converting to electronic controls and databases for their function and information storage. With the centralization of crucial data on computers, these networks become increasingly vulnerable targets for attack and manipulation. Cyberterrorists and governments involved in cyberwarfare can infiltrate these systems and disrupt their function both digitally and physically. The future of cybercrime between nations is uncertain, but many calls to arms are already sounding from concerned experts. Their voices can be heard in the articles below.
- Botnets, Cybercrime and Cyberterrorism was presented to Congress to raise political awareness of the inherent vulnerabilities of the government’s computerized information. It brings up the issues of location, identity and prevention unique to cyberterrorism and supports its claims with documented examples.
- Cyber Warfare/ Cyber Terrorism examines the similarities and differences between traditional forms of warfare and the nuances of information exploitation and manipulation. The paper claims cyber warfare is continuous with the goals of physical war.