Posted: October 17th, 2013
Cyber crime is a term that is used in the information technology community to refer to criminal activities that take place through the internet (Brenner, 2010). Even though the internet is widely praised for globalizing the world, it has presented criminals with a medium by which they can for practicing criminal activities. Ironically, the criminals make use the advantages that have made the internet popular over the past years of its technological evolution. Cyber crimes are widely practiced by governments across the world, corporations, terrorists, law enforcement agencies and by individuals with self-interests. Some of the activities that are considered as cyber crimes include hacking, cracking, phising, sniffing, and defacing among others.
The internet is aiding the practice of criminal activities in three major ways. Firstly, the internet has aided criminal activity by providing a highway for communicating information that sustains the already existing patterns of criminal activity (Santanam, 2011). These harmful activities include hate speech, bomb-talk, stalking among others. In addition, the internet has created a global network that provides new opportunities for criminals who were initially limited to a small geographic region. By exploiting globalization, a criminal practices activities that are regarded as crime in the civil law of other countries. Finally, the internet has aided criminal activities through its virtual nature. The virtual nature of the internet provides a feature that completely alters the relationship between time and space as perceived in reality. This feature propagates criminal activities that infringe the legal rights that protect intellectual property.
There are varieties of criminal activities that are currently being aided by the internet (Wall, 2007). An example of one criminal activity supplemented by the presence of the internet is money laundering. Money laundering refers to the illegal process of getting rid of a money trail that leads back to illegal money. This illegal activity had existed way before the internet era was born. The criminals in the drug trafficking industry always applied the manual methods of money laundering, which included bulk-cash smuggling, an act of physically smuggling illegal money across the territorial borders of another country. However, the internet era has absolutely revolutionized the nature of money laundering (Brenner, 2010). This has been made possible by the invention of electronic systems of banking that allows money launderers to transfer their illegal funds via the internet network.
Another example of a criminal activity that has been aided by the internet is the propagation of offensive material. The term offensive material is used to refer to materials such as pornography, hate speech, racist propaganda among others. The superhighway for communicating information that is provided by the internet provides a channel for this criminal act (Santanam, 2011). In the pre-internet era, criminal acts such as child pornography were reserved for isolated groups of criminals because they were not popular. With the invention of the internet, these criminal activities have been given a medium in which they can be expressed. For instance, a racially offensive material in country A can be used to attack an individual in country B.
The last example that explains how the internet has aided criminal activities is by encouraging fraud. Electronic commerce, a digital advancement of commerce, is mainly to blame for this fact. In the field of sales and investment, there have been increased cases of pyramid schemes and fraudulent investment opportunities. The ambiguous nature of transactions presented by the internet is hugely accountable in this case (Santanam, 2011). For instance, a fraudster can appear legitimate because of the virtual nature of the internet, which, allows him to present himself/herself as a reputable sales person. Furthermore, fraud is largely propelled by the electronic transaction system. This system allows a fraudster to intercept or divert electronic transactions to the benefit of his own self-interests.
The internet is also responsible for the abetting of certain activities as criminal acts. One of these activities is the use of offensive language. In the United States, a large number of states recognize statements that convey racism, blasphemy, hate and slanderous content as criminally inclined. Another activity that the internet has abetted to crime is stalking (Wall, 2007). Cyber stalking amounts to internet enabled activities that are used to harass an individual. In the United States, over 25 states have included stalking as a criminal offence. The laws addressing stalking through the internet are commonly referred to as cyber stalking laws. Lastly, another crime that has been recently abetted as a crime is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying refers to the hostile internet activities that are inclined towards the harming an individual.
There are different techniques, soft wares and applications that aid cyber crimes (Brenner, 2010). Among them are phising, viruses and malicious codes. A computer virus is a computer software program that is designed to interfere with the normal operations of a computer. A computer virus can be used by a criminal to destroy, alter or steal confidential data from a corporation or an individual. On the other hand, phising refers to the criminal activity of achieving access to unauthorized information such as usernames and passwords (Wall, 2007). This criminal activity can be used by criminals who wish to gain access to restricted or private networks. Lastly, malicious codes can be used by criminals to perform the same functions as the computer virus. They are small programs that are used to gain unauthorized access into a computer network with the aim of altering, stealing or destroying information.
Brenner, S. W. (2010). Cybercrime: Criminal threats from cyberspace. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.
Santanam, R., Sethumadhavan, M., & Virendra, M. (2011). Cyber security, cyber crime and cyber forensics: Applications and perspectives. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Wall, D. (2007). Cybercrime: The transformation of crime in the information age. Cambridge: Polity.
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