The development of digital technologies and innovations that brought humankind to the era of the Internet has introduced multiple changes of various character in every part of life. One of them is the appearance and constant transformation of a new category of crime associated with computers and communication technologies – cybercrime. This essay introduces the concept of cybercrime, informs the reader of its categories, and mentions several challenges that cybercrime presents.
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One of the critical problems that researchers are facing is coming up with a shared understanding of cybercrime and dividing it into categories. This paper will feature the definition given by Marcum and Higgins that describes cybercrime as “the commission of a crime utilizing some method of technology, including computers, smartphones, or tablets” (459). Cybercrime causes serious harm to individuals, organizations, and even countries as it has no physical borders and cannot be easily contained.
Cybercrime is generally divided into the following categories: cyber-violence, cyber-deceptions or thefts, cyber-trespass, and cyber-sex-related crimes. Quite often, the lines between categories might be rather blurred as cybercrime is an evolving concept. Its changing nature is explained by a constant development of technologies that create the space for this type of crime. Moreover, cybercrime also presents other challenges for researchers and criminologists as the novice nature of the crime requires new approaches, methods and resources.
Types of Cybercrime
The first category of cybercrime is connected to causing psychological harm against other people and includes cyberbullying and cyberstalking. The acts of cyberbullying are performed in multiple ways, such as posting untrue information about a person on social media, sending insults and sharing sensitive information without permission, ostracizing a person with negative words, and online behavior (Marcum and Higgins 460). Cyberstalking manifests in gathering personal information about a person, harassing, or monitoring their activities. Significantly, victims of these crimes can be of different age and social status: from teenagers to celebrities.
The second category of cybercrime is associated with online stealing. It is widely represented by the illegal copying of content without permission from the copyright holder and involves the most significant number of offenders. Marcum and Higgins report that about 70% of Internet users have been involved in music piracy behaviors (462). Another type is online fraud that involves banking, fee, internet auction, phishing, and spoofing to trick victims into handing over information or money. While digital piracy mostly affects production companies and labels, fraud actions are targeted at individuals, especially with the start of the e-commerce boom.
Cyber-trespass crimes involve hacking and distribution of viruses and malware. All of them are about “crossing boundaries into other people’s property and/or causing damage” (Yar and Steinmetz 10). It is similar to the harm inflicted on the property in the physical world, but instead of tools, an offender “hacks” into systems or corrupts files that are distributed to users. One of the most recent trends has become political hacking that ranges from so-called “hacktivism” to cyberterrorism. With this development, the scale of victims is extensive: from ordinary internet users to global corporations and political states.
Finally, the fourth category of cybercrime deals with crimes of sexual nature from sexting and revenge porn to sexual solicitation and pornography distribution. The majority of victims of these crimes are women and young people. However, the most significant problem that this category creates is the risk of sexualized representation of minors. This involves production and distribution child pornography and other forms of child sexual abuse.
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The emergence of cybercrime in its various forms and with its peculiarities when the offense is committed in the virtual space calls for new ways of tackling it. Over the years, the police and other traditional crime combating authorities have been involved in dealing with the increasing number of cybercrimes. In reality, “the sheer volume of online offenses necessitates a significant degree of selectivity, with police resources being targeted to those offenses that are deemed more serious” (Yar and Steinmetz 144). Moreover, due to the constant development of technology and the nature of the crime, the existing measures quite often prove to be inadequate and require new methods, extensive research, and more sources.
Another problem that manifests itself in connection to the issue of combating cybercrime is the debate around policing the Internet. From its beginning, the Internet was developed as a space for communication between individuals free from censorship. The increase of online crimes and the rise of public concern has put the discussion around the need to monitor online content to high levels of importance. It is needless to say that while “there is a much greater legal and social consensus about the need to prohibit child pornography” (Yar and Steinmetz 175), the issues associated with other types of cybercrime are often contested. While policing the Internet might lead to the decrease of illegal content, it creates the risk of violating freedom of speech and the flourishment of censorship.
The development of new technologies and the Internet’s dominance around the world has made it possible for a new type of crime to appear. Cybercrime constitutes a big problem for the safety of individuals, businesses, countries, and global society. The essay presented a short overview of cybercrime, its categories, and challenges that combating this new type of public offense has created.
Marcum, Catherine D., and George E. Higgins. “Cybercrime.” Handbook on Crime and Deviance, edited by Marvine D. Krohn, Nicole Hendrix, Gina Penly Hall, Alan J. Lizotte, Springer, 2019, pp. 459-475.
Yar, Majid, and Kevin F. Steinmetz. Cybercrime and Society. Sage, 2019.