In the recent past, internet has played a pivotal role in boosting science, business, and education. Nevertheless, to many people, the internet is an additional tool for committing many crimes. Internet has spawned the entry of new forms of crime in cyberspace besides making older crimes easier to commit. Cases of cybercrime are on the increase following the rapid advancement of digital technology. Cybercriminals operate in economic crime, white-collar crimes, infringement of intellectual property, and telecommunication crimes, all in the civil jurisdiction (McQuade, 2006, p.15). The similarity in these crimes is that the criminals employ digital technology in committing them. As a result, cyberspace is in dire need for international coordination and cooperation in enforcing legal measures in curbing the crime. This paper gives a detailed account of the emerging trends of cybercrime and the application of legal measures in dealing with the offenders.
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The nature and extend of cybercrime
There are various types of cybercrimes including hacking, the illegal intrusion into a computer system without the owner’s consent. Dissemination of malicious software is also on the increase. Malicious software includes viruses, worms, and Trojans among others. Moreover, denial of service involves a criminal act whereby, the felon floods the bandwidth of the victim’s network hindering him/her the access to certain services in the cyberspace. Other forms of cybercrimes are cyber stalking, spoofing, phishing, software piracy, threatening, and sale of illegal drugs through the internet. Spoofing is gaining access to one’s computer on a certain network, usually with special privileges, without the legal consent of the operators of the network. Phishing is a digital technique of accessing confidential information from an individual’s computer or an institution by employing deceptive means. On the other hand, software piracy is the attaining of certain programs through illegal copying. All these crimes embrace three different areas of activity. One of them is crimes in the commission of employing the use of computers such as online fraud, misleading adverts as well as financial crimes. The second type of criminal activity is the commission of crimes against digital technology, which include hacking, theft of communication services, cyber stalking, and the transmission or rather the dissemination of malicious software such as viruses and worms. The third category of cybercrime is conventional crimes attended by incidental digital methods like encryption. A great proportion of cybercriminals use social networking sites to perpetuate their acts. According to Yar (2006), criminal attacks that employ social networking sites as their center of operation have increased by 500% in the recent past (p.83). Most of these crimes not only lead to the loss of access to important data, but also they give way to the loss of millions of money.
Several firms have embarked on research to quantify the economic loss due to cybercrime. In 2003, over five hundred respondents consisting of United States corporations, government agencies, financial institutions, universities, and medical institutions were involved in a research carried out by the CSI (Walden, 2007, p.112). Over half of the respondents reported that they had been victims of cybercrime and the monetary loss they incurred was approximately $200 million in summation. The greatest loss amounting to $70 million was due to loss of proprietary information caused by malicious software. This insight is a clear indication of the severity of the problem around the globe. In another incidence, terrorists used electronic money transfer to fund a terrorist attack- the bombing of Bali in 2002 (Walden, 2007, p.115). Another case involves the loss of $450,000 from a bank after some cyber criminals hacked into a bank’s computer system and made the withdrawal after acquiring the bank passwords. Cybercrime has exhibited an increasing trend such that the most equipped law enforcement agencies find it hard to deal with them. One would wonder why cybercrimes are exhibiting an increasing trend in the recent past.
Besides the rapid growth of technological advancement, there are other motivating factors behind the crime. The major motivating factor is money. Criminals who hack into a company’s database steal certain information-passwords and information, that they intent to use to get money. For instance, once they access a bank’s passwords, they use them to transfer someone else’s funds into their accounts. Money is the sole factor driving some people to make misleading advertisements in the cyberspace as well as conduct the sale of narcotics using digital money transfer methods. Emotions such as anger, despair, and revenge also motivate individuals in committing cybercrimes. Some of the cybercrimes that result from emotions are cyber stalking, e-mail harassment, terrorist threats, and unauthorized access to certain networks among others. Surprisingly, some individuals, but to a lesser extent, commit cybercrimes just for fun. Politics also act as a motivating factor for cybercrimes especially between political rivals.
Law enforcement initiatives in curbing cybercrime
Just like any other crime, judiciary systems need to address cybercrime appropriately. The criminal justice process seeks to deter, punish, incapacitate, and rehabilitate offenders of the law (Yar, 2006, p.52). However, dealing with cybercrime has presented several challenges. Unlike all other forms of crimes, the Locard’s principle of exchange, which helps in the justice process, does not always apply in dealing with cybercrimes because most computer security systems do not track, trace, or even generate concrete and legally admissible evidence of any cybercrime. For one to undergo punishment under the law there has to be evidence to back up the any accusations. In some cases of cybercrime, it is extremely hard to get concrete evidence. Deliberate mislabeling of data, storage of the files in question in hidden directories, and encryption are some of the barriers that investigators face in their search for evidence against cybercriminals. Skilled hackers employ the logical structure of some digital networks to compromise systems without leaving behind any trail. This phenomenon makes is difficult for any investigator to trace criminal dealings. Following the global technological advancement, many prosecutors lack advanced technological knowhow in dealing with cybercrimes. They require continual training to equip themselves with the knowledge and understanding of the different aspects of cyberspace to increase their efficiency in addressing cybercrimes. Despite the challenges that investigation of cybercrimes faces, cyber criminals are bound to undergo punishment just like any other criminals.
Several nations have enacted laws to deal with the problem. For instance, in 2005, legislators in the United States of America added two new crimes in the US code following the passing of the anti-phishing act. Canada is one of the nations that have strengthened the fight against cybercrime. Towards the end of last year, the Canadian government enacted laws against spam. It approved the Internet and Wireless Spam Act in its attempt to fight the crime (Yar, 2006, p.70). Among the African countries, Cameroon has demonstrated its relentless efforts in fighting cybercrime. Early this year, the government of Cameroon introduced its first law addressing cybercrime in the parliament. The bill defines major cybercrimes including child pornography, hacking, misleading advertisements as well as pedophilia. Although the laws enacted in individual nations are essential in dealing with cybercriminals, they are not adequate in addressing the problem at the global level. As a result, a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Stein Schjolberg, proposed a new legal mechanism in curbing the crime and global cyber attacks. The need for an international law governing cyberspace is essential due to the complexity of some cybercrimes. Walden argues that, “A cybercriminal can sit in one country, route electronic communications through several others, commit a crime in another, and park the proceeds in yet another” (2007, p.106). It is therefore evident that international co-operation is essential in combating cybercrimes.
Cybercrimes have exhibited an increasing trend in the recent past. These crimes take different forms ranging from cyber stalking to propagation of terrorist attacks around the globe. Cybercrimes not only lead to loss of important data from many institutions, but also lead to insurmountable monetary loss. The motivating factors for cybercrimes include money, emotions, and politics among others. Many legislators in different nations have embarked on efforts of combating the crime, which include the formulation of laws and implementing them. However, it has been challenging to deal with most cybercriminals due to the complexity of the networks used in committing cybercrimes and this situation calls for the need for the continual training of prosecutors of cybercrimes. The training will equip them with the knowledge and understanding essential in bringing justice to victims of cybercriminals. There is need for international co-ordination and co-operation of the international community to enhance the success of the fight against cybercrimes.
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McQuade, S. (2006). Understanding and Managing Cybercrime. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Walden, I. (2007). Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yar, M. (2006). Cybercrime and Society. London: Sage.