52. Cybercrime: The Risks of Technology

Author: Jenny Faig, First Year

Cybercrime is a global issue plaguing the world. The dictionary defines cybercrime as “crime conducted via the Internet or some other computer network”(Merriam-Webster). The definition remains very broad because the word “cyber” is defined as “relating to the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality.” Due to the growing number of people gaining access to the internet, rapid development of technology, and the globalization of the world, more of the world population is becoming susceptible to involvement in cybercrime – whether it be as a victim or a criminal. Cybercrime involves different levels of the world on both the victim and criminal side from an individual citizen, to small groups, businesses, and the government, to the countries of the world. There are different groups from law enforcement agencies to the U.S. Secret Service, that are attempting to combat the problem through cooperation and preemptive efforts. If these groups combined with the public to protect themselves and the country from criminals that commit cybercrime, the nation’s network and technology servers would be much safer for technology users. Clearly, cybercrime is a problem because it puts internet users at risk of being taken advantage of or harmed.

The advantages of technology and the internet have led more criminals to use cyberspace to commit crimes. The threat of cybercrime is increasing as globalization continues to spread across the world. While the impact of globalization has led to amazing, new discoveries throughout the world, Internet connectivity has also made cybercrime easier. America and the rest of the world have become more reliant on technology and use it in more aspects of their lives, technology-users make themselves more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Globalization and the growing use of computers in the world have given people a motive to learn more about computing and become more knowledgeable as programmers. As these people learn more, there is a risk that they will use their new intelligence to commit cybercrimes.

The internet offers high speed connectivity between countries, which allows criminals to commit cybercrimes from anywhere in the world. Due to the demand for the internet to be fast, networks are designed for maximum speed, rather than to be secure or track users (“Interpol” par. 1). This lack of security enables hackers to break into networks easily and then makes them hard to track. Also, older computers are now inexpensive enough for criminals to obtain in order to commit crimes. Furthermore, older software and network equipment that has not been updated has more vulnerabilities than the newer technology. So, older generations of people and older companies continue to use this risky software, which allows for easier attacks against them.

Many companies do not advance their technology or security until there is a direct threat against their cyber security (Faig). For example, the Internet Archive, an online collection of millions of digitized books, only changed their cyber security due to the threat of surveillance on their technology by the government and National Security Agency (NSA) (Miners, par.1,3). The NSA uses tools, like XKeyscore, to search through emails, online chats, and browsing histories without authorization (Miners, par. 4). The Internet Archive has taken steps to prevent these kinds of security breaches. For example, they are implementing an encrypted Web protocol standard of “HTTPS” and making it a default in the websites’ URL to prevent the eavesdropping of customers (Miners, par. 2). Even though it increases a company’s security, companies are stubborn in their technological ways and in solving cybercrimes committed against them. In 2005, among 7,818 businesses, 67% detected at least one cyber attack against their company, but most businesses did not report cyber attacks to law enforcement agencies (“Bureau of Justice Statistics” sec. 2). Finally, the  “speed, convenience, and anonymity” of modern technologies, makes cybercrime a prime way for criminals to commit crimes with great success and with a good chance of avoiding detection (“Interpol: Cybercrime” par.1). The threat of cybercrime will continue increasing as globalization continues to spread across the world.

The law enforcement’s lack of resources further permits the increase of crime due to the difficulty in their stopping criminals. As one article explains “Computers and the Internet have made the criminal a better criminal, and while the law, again, is catching up, police don’t have nearly enough resources and expertise to catch crooks to any meaningful extent” (Wolf, par. 6). Police methods often do not keep up with the increased sophistication of the latest technology, so it is hard for police to keep up with hackers using the newest technology.

There are four main challenges facing law enforcement when combating cybercrime. One challenge is ensuring that cybercrime is reported (Wolf, par. 11). “Experts [in law enforcement] agree that only one in seven cybercrimes are reported to the authorities or agencies such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)” (Wolf,  par. 7). Another is “ensuring adequate analytical and technical capabilities for law enforcement”(Wolf, par. 11). To investigate cybercrime efficiently and effectively, “law enforcement agencies need skilled investigators, up-to-date computer forensic examiners, and prosecutors with cybercrime familiarity”(Wolf, par. 13). However, the pool of qualified candidates to investigate cybercrimes is limited because they require so much training to learn so many skills”(Wolf, par. 14). The Defense Cyber Crime Center reported that “it can take up to 12 months [for an investigator] to become proficient enough to fully manage investigations”(Wolf, par. 15). This demonstrated the complexity of the problem and the extensive training that is required in order to combat it efficiently.

One suggestion for solving law enforcement’s lack of knowledge concerning cybercrime is the adopting of a multi-agency, high-technology, new task force model (Wolf, par. 22). This type of task force model allows for the sharing of expertise between agencies and solves jurisdiction issues (Wolf, par. 25). However, many police agencies cannot spare officers to staff these forces. One way of solving the staffing problem, as South Carolina police agencies have done, is utilizing the National White Collar Crime Center. This center offers training programs that allow investigators to learn the newest strategies in combating cybercrime, without the agencies losing people (Wolf, par. 30). The Secret Service also trains people in an education program, started in 2008. The program has already trained 1,400 state and local law enforcement officers on cybercrimes (Sullivan, par. 21). In addition, agencies must overcome the issue of working in a borderless environment presents conflicts over jurisdiction. The final, major challenge is the implementation of information security practices and raising awareness of cyber security (Wolf, par. 11).

Law enforcement agencies must overcome being geographically based in one location by crossing country borders to network with other agencies, just as the hackers have done. The disconnect between the technology of local police stations and the criminals they are tracking is large, so law enforcement is often at a disadvantage to find these hackers. Traditionally, police focus on more physical crimes with physical evidence, rather than cybercrimes, though they are just as illegal. Cybercrimes are more challenging to solve because they have a different type of forensic evidence that local police are not equipped to investigate. In physical crimes, the victim tends to call the police before messing with the evidence of a crime, but in a network intrusion, the primary goal of the victim is to restore their network. This causes the loss of crime scene evidence, which complicates the investigation (Sullivan, par. 17). The disadvantages and lack of resources for law enforcement cause criminals to commit more cybercrimes. Law enforcement is not usually anticipated to serve justice, so criminals feel they will not get caught. This idea of committing crimes with no consequences causes more cybercrime, and there is little that law enforcement can do to prevent it other than globalize and update their technology.

Other countries also face the problem of the law enforcement not being able to keep up with criminals, especially in South Africa. The United States FBI listed South Africa as the sixth most active country for cybercrime. The profusion of cybercrime is explained as being due to its “lawless society” (“News 24” par.5). In contrast to South Africa, the U.S. has federal law enforcement that is more equipped to handle larger cybercrimes. One source explained how “comparing the FBI’s cyber crime enforcement to that of South Africa police was like comparing ‘chalk and cheese’”(“News 24” par.7). This shows how different the law enforcement of the two countries are in catching cybercrime. Law enforcement, in America and around the world, does not have the means and resources necessary to keep up with the technology that criminals and hackers use to commit cybercrime.

As technology has globalized and advanced, so have the ways that criminals commit cybercrimes. In the past, when technology was not nearly as developed, cybercrimes were committed by individuals or small groups of criminals. However, technology professionals now work together to pool their resources and expertise and commit crimes in groups and teams, so each member of the group can specialize in a different skill needed to commit a crime. The people that commit cybercrimes are also driven by various motives like profit, in protest, or revenge. A motive that fuels several cybercrimes, such as industrial and political espionage, is competition. Industrial espionage is the stealing of sensitive information from a competitor. Companies often commit this crime in order to release the newest advancements in their field before their competitor and  remain the top company. Similarly, political espionage is the stealing of sensitive information from political enemies. Politicians in various offices commit political espionage to sabotage a competitor’s campaign and gain more votes (Faig). Lastly, cybercrimes are often linked to other illegal activities like drug and human trafficking, so criminals that perpetrate these illegal crimes commit cybercrimes as well (“News 24” par.6). Cybercrime is committed by a diverse group of individuals, but all are dangerous and present a threat that the world must take seriously and take steps to prevent.

Cybercrimes are committed using technologies that people use everyday, which potentially puts everyone at risk of being attacked. There are so many different types of cybercrimes, designed to target attacks on different victims and groups. For example, telemarketing and internet fraud are two cybercrimes that attack citizens on an individual level. Internet fraud, like email scams, targets individuals because hackers send individuals fake emails requesting money or personal account information.

In addition to personal security, cybercrimes “pose a serious threat to national and international security”(“Interpol” par.2) because of the classified intelligence that can be hacked from government networks and servers. Cybercrimes are often committed by terrorist groups, who use the internet and technology to spread their message, encourage radicalization, and recruit new members. Also, governments hack into each other’s technology in order to spy on intelligence, causing threats to international security. Cybercrimes potentially have the ability to attack such diverse groups of people, due to the various types of criminals that commit these crimes, that everyone must learn how to protect themselves and cooperate with organizations to solve this problem.

There are a few major organizations that are helping to combat cybercrime internationally. One international organization that is working to combat cybercrime is the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). INTERPOL promotes the exchanging of information and cooperation between countries to share information about cybercrimes that cross borders and help each other to solve crimes within their own countries. Also, INTERPOL provides a secure web portal for countries to share this information. The organization assists countries that are investigating and solving cybercrimes by offering the use of investigative and database services (“Interpol” par.6). The intellectual property of governments in the world are very valuable so thieves target the nation’s intellectual property. This threat against nation’s cyber security makes the sharing of information between countries vital for maintaining the world’s cyber security (“The United Stated Department of Justice” par.1). Furthermore, they work to identify threats of cyber criminals and cyber attacks before they strike, in order to avoid such cybercrimes. Essentially INTERPOL coordinates and assists international operations between countries to help solve cybercrimes throughout the world (“Interpol” par.6). Though people across the globe are affected by the global issue of cybercrime, there are ways to combat the problem and many organizations are dedicated to this task.

In addition to international organizations, there are organizations working to combat cybercrime within the United States specifically. One of these groups that works within the U.S. is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS works with public and private partners to enhance cyber security and make cyberspace more safe (“Homeland Security: Critical Infrastructure Sector Partnerships” par.2). One way of accomplishing these goals is by promoting cyber security awareness in order to improve internet users’ “digital literacy,” or knowledge of technology. In addition, the DHS issues bulletins and alerts on potential cyber threats. These bulletins allow the sharing of information between private sectors so they can help defend themselves against these threats (“Homeland Security: Secure Cyber Networks” par.3). The organization also oversees the protection of the “.gov” website domain using intrusion detection technology to monitor the domain and identify cyber vulnerabilities (“Homeland Security: Secure Cyber Networks” par.2). The work of the DHS benefits the information technology community and helps protect the U.S. public from threats against cyber security.

Cybercrime is a global issue and it has the risk of affecting individual people, businesses, and even governments, and each person must learn to take action against it. Due to the growing threat of cybercrime, “cyber security is a shared responsibility, and each of us has a role to play in making it safer, more secure and resilient”(“Homeland Security: Combat Cyber Crime” par.1). There are steps that individual citizens and law enforcement agencies can take to combat cybercrime. The first step to combating the problem is to spread awareness about cybercrime and how to protect one’s self and one’s personal information. Many people simply lack basic knowledge about cybercrime and do not know what a direct threat it poses to them. For example, one major cybercrime is the abuse of social media, which often affects users that have accounts on these social media sites. Around 600,000 Facebook accounts worldwide are compromised daily, that means 18 people are victims of cybercrime per second (“News 24” par.17). Also, many people make the mistake of only ensuring they have internet security and anti-virus software on their computers, which neglects mobile devices that can be hacked as well (“News 24” par.21).

Once people learn of these attacks, the next step is educating themselves on how to protect themselves from such attacks. One way people can protect themselves is by avoiding simple passwords based on birthdays, surnames, and other personal information to create stronger passwords that make it harder for hackers to crack (“News 24” par.19,20). In addition, individuals must learn to use cyber security to encrypt and protect their files. There are websites where people can go to learn more like the IC3 sponsored website: “lookstogoodtobetrue.com.” This website posts public service announcements and scam alerts online and distribute them not only to the public, but also to law enforcement and media agencies to raise awareness and spread information (“Internet Crime Complaint Center” p.19). When individuals fail to protect themselves, police must be equipped to combat cybercrimes. The first step law enforcement agencies need to take it to encourage people to report crimes so the police have an opportunity to solve the crimes and try to combat the problem. Police stations also must make every effort to adopt the new task force model into their own agencies because “as it is now, local police don’t have the widespread know-how to investigate cybercrimes”(Sullivan, par.2). Once the police educate themselves, they can work to educate local businesses and people to combat cybercrime as well. Individuals and law enforcement agencies must take steps in raising awareness and educating themselves in order to take action against cybercrime.

Cybercrime is a global issue that threatens the cyber security of citizens, businesses, governments, and the whole international community. The globalization of the world has increased cybercrime due to the new way that technology has been incorporated into so many aspects of daily life, and the risk that the increased use presents to the users. Law enforcement also lacks the means to combat cybercrime in an effective way, that only further increases the threat of this security threat. Globalization enables cyber criminals to come together and collaborate on cybercrimes and share ideas on how to commit crimes, which makes it harder for police to prevent the criminals’ crimes. These criminals target many people to gain personal information or take advantage of the victims in another way. However, there are international and national agencies committed to combating cybercrime and making progress in accomplishing this goal. Lieutenant Amanda Simmons of the South Carolina Computer Crime Center believes “there is a possibility that nearly every crime will eventually involve some high-tech piece of evidence” due to the younger, technologically-savvy generation (Wolf, par.18). This shows the extreme increase in cybercrime as a security threat. The global community must learn that there are steps that can be taken to prevent these kinds of crimes from being committed and support efforts to combat cybercrime.


Works Cited

“Combat Cyber Crime.” Homeland Security. <http://www.dhs.gov/combat-cyber-crime>.

“Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.” The United States Department of Justice. <http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/>.

“Cybercrime.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. 23 Oct. 2013 <http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=41>.

“Cybercrime.” INTERPOL. 2013<http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Cybercrime/Cybercrime>.

“Cybercrime.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com>.

“Cyber crime a national crisis.” News 24 22:21. 23 Oct. 2013 <http://www.news24.com/Technology/News/Cyber-crime-a-national-crisis-20131023-4>.

Faig, John D. Master of Educational Technology, Columbia University. Personal Interview. 22 Oct. 2013.

Miners, Zach. “Internet Archive, fearful of spying, boosts its encryption.” Computerworld 25 Oct. 2013 <http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9243545/Internet_Archive_fearful_of_spying_boosts_its_encryption?taxonomyId=82>.

Sullivan, Eileen. “Local Police Get Into Cybercrime Fighting Business.” Huffington Post 13 Apr. 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/13/police-cybercrime_n_3075427.html>.

Wolf, Ulf. “Cyber-Crime: Law Enforcement Must Keep Pace With Tech-Savvy Criminals.” Digitalcommunities 27 Jan. 2009 <http://www.digitalcommunities.com/articles/Cyber-Crime-Law-Enforcement-Must-Keep-Pace.html>.

“2012 Internet Crime Report.” Internet Crime Complaint Center. 2012 <http://www.ic3.gov/media/annualreport/2012_IC3Report.pd

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