The fast growth of computer technology over the last couple of years has caused an increase in cyber-related criminal activities. As technology advances, some people are finding ways to exploit it with the objective of committing cybercrimes. Basically, cybercriminals are turning technology from a positive tool into a negative tool. Cybercrime comprises criminal acts that involve computers and networks.
Essentially, cybercrimes involve criminal activities where computers and electronic information technology devices are the sources, tools, or places of crime. Cybercrimes are characterized by unlawful access into someone's database, data interference, and an illegal interception, misuse of devices, system interference, forgery, and electronic scams.
Equally, with the entry of cybercrime, law enforcement agencies have come up with new ways of preventing and prosecuting those found committing such crimes. There is a somewhat new form of crime that does not include the use of force but is conducted over the Internet.
What Is Cybercrime
During this globalization era, the most common word used is a crime. It denotes any commission of an act prohibited by the law. Various countries have different practices of combatting crime. Indisputably, a country with a high index of crime cannot develop. Being a hindrance to development, it negatively impacts the country in terms of economic and social development.
There are a lot of descriptions of the word "cybercrime". According to Gerdes (2009), cybercrimes are defined as crimes that are committed on the Internet through the use of the computer as either a targeted victim or as a tool of executing an attack. Normally, computers are considered as targets of attack when the crime is directed to the computer. Similarly, computers can also be considered as a tool in cybercrime when the individual is the main target of cybercrime.
Besides, cybercrimes can be well-defined as crimes committed on the Internet. Actually, it is a new form of crime that occurs as a result of technological advancement in different parts of the world. Ultimately, cybercrime can be defined as any violent action that has been conducted through the use of devices connected to the Internet (McIntosh, 2003).
Recent studies have shown an increase in cybercrimes. Cybercrimes include other traditional crimes that have been carried out through access to the Internet. Such crimes include telemarketing Internet frauds, identity theft hate crimes, and credit card account thefts.
Currently, it is extremely difficult to detect and analyze cybercrimes due to several factors. First, the aggressive development of technology has made it challenging to detect this type of crime. Second, most of the businessmen are unwilling to be enjoined in cases indicating cybercriminals. Mainly, they are reluctant because they fear adverse publicity, loss of public confidence, embarrassment, and economic aftermaths. Third, the law enforcement officials do not have the essential technical expertise to challenge cybercrimes. Thus, all these factors hamper the efforts of detecting cybercrimes.
Based on recent statistics, all the different forms of cybercrime pose a serious threat to individuals and businesses. Understanding the different types of cybercrimes and basic prevention techniques can aid internal auditors to evaluate whether a company has satisfactory defenses against cybercrime. For example, individuals who do not have a sound knowledge about cybercrime are likely to fall prey to certain cybercrimes such as cyber fraud, forgery, and identity theft.
History of Cybercrime
The word "hacking" seems to be the catchphrase in the history of cybercrimes despite many people being oblivious to the existence of hackers. Hacking is one of the oldest phenomena in the technology world and has a rich history dating back to the 1970s. Actually, the meaning of the word has transformed from a laudable term to one that draws criticism from all quarters.
Originally, the word "hacking" was used in reference to an ingenious technique of doing anything on the computer (Grant-Adamson, 2003). During those days, computer shortcuts that made computing tasks faster were referred to as hacks. Basically, the good old hacking was discovering how the wired world works. Nonetheless, the word "hacking" has attracted a different explanation nowadays. Presently, hacking defines the illegal activities of cybercriminals who break into people's computers.
Categories of Cybercrimes
There are many crimes that can be labeled as cybercrimes such as denial of service, software piracy, hacking, online pornography, and other related crimes. Researchers have failed to agree on how to classify these different cybercrimes. Generally, cybercrimes can be classified into three categories i.e. crimes against the government, property, and a person (Townsend, 2005).
The first category of cybercrimes is cybercrime against a person. It includes crimes such as cyber-stalking and harassment via email. Cyber-stalking involves tracking the activities of an individual over the Internet. Some of the practices that facilitate incidences of this crime include chat rooms, e-mail, and user net groups. Harassment carried out over the Internet includes racial, sexual, or religious ones. Commonly, women and children are the ones harassed by cybercriminals.
The second category of cybercrimes involves crimes against the government. The most serious type of crime in this specific category is cyber terrorism. One of the indicators of this type of crime involves hacking into websites of state governments. For example, hackers usually gain access and control over a military website through a technique known as web jacking. The hackers may go to the extent of altering the complete content of a website and replace it with theirs. Most of the time, these cybercriminals may be doing this for money or to fulfill a certain political objective.
Lastly, the third category of cybercrimes involves cybercrimes against all forms of property. This comprises the destruction of computer data through the transmission of harmful programs to the target via the Internet. Also, this category of cybercrimes involves attacks on the contents of individuals' bank account. One of the most widely notorious methods of executing this attack is the money transfer email scam. This technique misleads the victim into "helping" the cybercriminal to transfer money from another country.
The number of Internet users has increased exponentially over the last 10 years. Hence, with the increase of Internet users, it is obvious that the number of cybercrimes reported will also increase. These Internet users are susceptible to common cybercrimes such as computer viruses, fraud, identity theft, phishing, Botnet, and spoofing.
Identity theft is a form of crime in which the cybercriminal uses sophisticated techniques to obtain crucial personal information in order to pose as someone else. For example, the criminal can use the victim's personal credit information to acquire merchandise, services or credit masquerading as the victim. Identity theft consists of two types of crimes i.e. true name theft and named account takeover.
True name identity theft is whereby the criminal opens a new account by using the personal information of the victim. Account takeover identity theft is whereby the imposter accesses the victim's accounts by using the stolen personal information. The best way to shield yourself against this crime is by never writing down your PIN and keeping your financial information in a secured place.
Another common type of cybercrime is a computer virus. It is a computer program that attaches itself to executable system software or application programs (Goel, 2007). Usually, it spreads from one computer to another interfering with the operations of the computer. The virus consequently replicates itself in the computer system and causes severe damage to the computer files. It may corrupt or delete the whole data in the computer system.
Computer viruses are easily spread by email attachments and portable storage devices such as flash disks. Funnily, viruses are disguised as attachments of greeting cards, audio files, or funny images. Also, they can be spread through downloads over the Internet. In this instance, the virus is often hidden in pirated software that has been downloaded by the Internet user. Therefore, individuals are advised not to open an email attachment unless he/she knows the sender in person.
Fraud is another common cybercrime that involves deliberate misrepresentation in order to cause another person to suffer damage. It can be conducted through the mail, phone, Internet, and wire. There are several types of criminal fraud such as bankruptcy fraud, advance-fee fraud, and false advertising.
Another type of fraud is online credit card fraud where the criminal unlawfully acquires the credit card number of someone else and uses it to make fraudulent purchases. In order to protect against this type of crime, an individual should develop processes that enforce accountability and protect sensitive information.
Other common cybercrimes include E-bank theft and espionage. E-bank theft ensues when a perpetrator hacks into the system of a bank and diverts funds to different accounts only accessible to him. Espionage is whereby the cybercriminals hack into an individual's personal computer and online systems to acquire private information with the intent of selling it to other criminal parties.
Cybercrimes also encompass storing of illegal information. Often, cybercriminals use the Internet to obtain and transfer illegal images. Some of these illegal images include those depicting child abuse images and immorally obscene content. Unfortunately, many people are cognizant that these are cybercrimes but do not report them to the authorities such as Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
When reported to, the concerned authorities will remove such images from the Internet. Importantly, child abuse images disclose the real abuse of an innocent child and may help the authorities in locating and rescuing such young victims from further mistreatment (Janczewski & Colarik, 2008).
Motives of Cyber Criminals
Most cybercriminals are motivated by malicious intentions. For example, the majority of them are driven to make money from their hacking activities. Others are motivated by infuriation, social motivators, sexual motivations, and the urge to spread a political message (Hynson, 2012).
The majority of cybercriminals are highly motivated by the urge to make more money. Crimes such as corporate espionage and misappropriation are carried out with the motive of making money. Also, hackers engage in scams where they may succeed in making some quick money.
There are those cybercriminals who are motivated to take vengeance on other people. The urge to revenge stems from anger caused by other people. For example, a retrenched employee may feel unfairly treated and will do anything to defame the company's website.
However, there are those cybercriminals who are only motivated by the desire for entertainment. These types of criminals try different methods of hacking to establish which techniques work and which ones do not. They are motivated in getting peer respect by hacking into websites of international corporations and posting their content on these websites. Also, other cybercriminals just break into computer systems to prove their abilities to their counterparts or rival groups.
Targets of Cybercrime
Cybercriminals often target people who are gullible. Phishers easily deceive such people into buying into their scams where they are swindled a lot of money. Older people are usually likely to be tricked because they are more helpful and trusting towards others. Unfortunately, these cybercriminals do not spare anyone in their games. They target children who are extremely naive and gullible. Most children believe that the people they meet on the Internet are friendly and good people. However, this is far from the truth as proven by recent cases of children being preyed on by online pedophiles.
Another group of people that are victims of cybercrimes is desperados. They usually fall into cybercriminals' traps because they are desperate to get quick cash. Any information that depicts an easy way to riches is certain of enticing this group of people. Some of the online advertisements are fraud in that they intend to extract money from the victim's credit cards.
Inexperienced people are known to be victims of cybercrimes largely because they do not know how to protect their computers. Usually, they are totally incapable of protecting their computers from hackers and malicious programs. Some of the inexperienced people actually are not even aware of the existence of cybercrimes.
Prevention of Cybercrimes
Some of the preventive measures against cybercrime include the use of firewalls, encryption, and passwords. Even though preventive measures may be effective sometimes, it is vital to have a cybercrime detection mechanism in place. It will act as a last line of defense concerning the loss of prevention. Some of the detection techniques include anomaly detection systems, tripwires, and configuration-checking tools.
Companies and stakeholders will ultimately benefit from stopping cybercrimes because it is detrimental to their business operations. Most companies find it indispensable to use different detection techniques to effectively and efficiently detect electronic crimes. The hiring of professionals by companies is the ultimate price the company will have to pay to protect its business operations and data. These professionals should take suitable actions to successfully resolve cybercrimes.
There is a greater need for new legislation to tackle the emerging issue of cybercrime. The governments and law enforcement agencies have been faced with a myriad of questions concerning this new form of crime. What is the distinction between legal and illegal cyber activities? Who controls the interaction between people on the Internet? Who is responsible for enforcing cyber laws when the relationship between the offender and the victim is purely virtual in nature? Various state governments have created state laws to attempt to address these issues (Sofaer & Cuellar, 2001).
Various countries have taken measures to tackle the thorny issue of cybercrime. For example, the United States government has taken measures to fight cybercrimes both at the state and the federal level. It has established laws to combat the growing cybercrime problem. These set laws will deal with issues like copyright infringements, computer intrusions, and cyber-terrorism. These crimes comprise the three realms of victims i.e. the individual, business, and government. These laws assist in defining what computer activity is and is not illegal. Also, they determine who has control over various cyber offenses.
Some of the government agencies fighting cybercrime include the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These divisions of the government work in union with private organizations to protect the critical infrastructure of the United States by concentrating on prevention, detection, and stopping of cybercrimes. These three key security agencies of the government educate the public on ways of protecting themselves against cybercrimes. They work together with other concerned groups in order to fight the increasing number of cybercrimes.
Areas for Future Research
Legislators and law enforcement agents should brace themselves for a tough battle with cybercrime. The problem of cybercrime will continue to develop and hence the need to comprehend what kind of programs can be developed to combat it. Although this paper has covered broadly several pertinent issues about cybercrime, more research needs to be conducted on other areas of cybercrime.
Future research should involve the expansion of these studies to cover more diverse samples. Currently, the existing studies have only surveyed college students about their involvement in cybercrime victimization. It is valuable to use the college students because they access the Internet on a regular basis and hence are more likely to encounter cybercrime than other people. However, sampling of the college students does not represent the whole population.
Another significant area that requires further research is business cyber victimization. Presently, there are only a few research studies that have examined the relationship between cybercrime and business. These research studies have failed to study issues of why some businesses experienced cybercrime victimization.
Researchers could be able to establish why offenders are more attracted to a business with certain practices such as online banking. It would be possible to know why some businesses are more susceptible to cybercrime victimization only if research studies covered the issue of business victimization expansively.
In conclusion, the advent of new technology has totally changed how people do their business and run their personal lives. These recent advancements in technology have created an opening for a new form of crime, cybercrime. This paper has mainly focused on the nature of the cybercrime problem, classification of cybercrimes, and a review of current legislation concerning cybercrimes. Different arms of the government have created legislation that puts cybercrime into a specific context and provides the legal base for persecuting such crimes.
Undoubtedly, cybercrime is a complicated issue facing both individuals and businesses. Recent developments suggest that cybercrime will be an essential field of study as the world moves onward. Therefore, the problem should not be disregarded at all, but all efforts should be geared towards combating this main problem.