Cyber crime is any criminal act related to computers and networks which is called hacking, phishing, spamming or is used as a tool to commit an offence (child pornography and hate crimes) conducted through the Internet. It is a bigger risk now than ever before due to the sheer number of connected people and devices. Cyber crime is a term for any illegal activity that uses a computer as its primary means of commission. Cyber criminals may use computer technology to access personal information, business trade secrets, or use the Internet for exploitive or malicious purposes. Criminals can also use computers for communication and document or data storage. Criminals who are engaged in these illegal activities are often referred to as hackers. Common types of cyber crime include online bank information theft, identity theft, online predatory crimes and unauthorised computer access. More serious crimes like cyber-terrorism are also of significant concern. Cyber crimes cover a wide range of activities, but these can generally be broken into two categories, (i) crimes that target computer networks or devices. These types of crimes include viruses and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, and (ii) crimes that use computer networks to advance other criminal activities. These types of crimes include cyber-stalking, phishing and fraud or identity theft. Criminals committing cyber crime use a number of methods, depending on their skill-set and their goal.
Cyber crime, as distinguished from computer crime, is an umbrella term for various crimes committed using the World Wide Web, such as, theft of one's personal identity (identity theft) or financial resources, spread of malicious software code such as computer viruses; use of others' computers to send spam email messages (botnets), Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on computer networks or websites by the hacker, activism, or attacking computer servers of those organisations felt by the hacker to be unsavoury or ethically dubious, cyber stalking by which sexual predators use Internet chat rooms, social networking sites, and other online venues to find and harass their victims, cyber bullying, where individuals are harassed by others, causing severe mental anguish, cyber pornography, the use of the Internet to spread child and adult pornography; Internet gambling and software piracy and cyber terrorism, the use of the Internet to stage intentional, wide-spread attacks that disrupt computer networks, using the Internet to spread violent messages, recruit terrorists, and plan attacks.
Cyber crime can be divided into four sub-categories cyber-trespass (hacktivism, viruses, Denial of Service attacks), cyber-deceptions (identity theft, fraud, piracy), cyber-pornography, cyber-violence (cyber bullying, cyber stalking). The computer or device may be the agent of the crime, the facilitator of the crime, or the target of the crime. The crime may take place on the computer alone or in addition to other locations. The broad range of cyber crime can be better understood by dividing it into two overall categories.
Type 1 cyber crime:
(a) Usually a single event from the perspective of the victim.
(b) Phishing is where the victim receives a supposedly legitimate email (quite often claiming to be a bank or credit card company) with a link that leads to a hostile website. Once the link is clicked, the PC can then be infected with a virus.
(c) Hackers often carry out by taking advantage of flaws in a web browser to place a Trojan horse virus onto the unprotected victims' computer.
(d) Any cyber crime that relates to theft or manipulation of data or services via hacking or viruses, identity theft, and bank or e-commerce fraud.
Type 2 cyber crime:
(a) Type 2 tends to be much more serious and covers things such as cyber-stalking and harassment, child predation, extortion, blackmail, stock market manipulation, complex corporate espionage, and planning or carrying out terrorist activities.
(b) It is generally an on-going series of events, involving repeated interactions with the target. For example, the target is contacted in a chat room by someone who, over time, attempts to establish a relationship.
Eventually, the criminal exploits the relationship to commit a crime. Or, members of a terrorist cell or criminal organisation may use hidden messages to communicate in a public forum to plan activities or discuss money laundering locations, for example.
(c) More often than not, it is facilitated by programmes that do not fit under the classification crime ware. For example, conversations may take place using IM (instant messaging) clients or files may be transferred using File Transfer Protocol (FTP).
IMPACTS OF CYBER CRIME: The impacts of a single, successful cyber attack can have far-reaching implications including financial losses, theft of intellectual property, and loss of consumer confidence and trust. The overall monetary impact of cyber crime on society and government is estimated to be billions of dollars a year. Criminals take advantage of technology in many different ways. The Internet, in particular, is a great tool for scammers and other miscreants, since it allows them to ply their trade while hiding behind a shield of digital anonymity.
Cyber crime affects society in a number of different ways, both online and offline. Identity Theft: Becoming the victim of cyber crime can have long-lasting effects on life. One common technique scammers employ is phishing, sending false emails purporting to come from a bank or other financial institution requesting personal information. If one hands over this information, it can allow the criminal to access one's bank and credit accounts, as well as open new accounts and destroy credit rating.
SECURITY COSTS: Cyber criminals also focus their attacks on businesses, both large and small. Hackers may attempt to take over company servers to steal information or use the machines for their own purposes, requiring companies to hire staff and update software to keep intruders out. According to EWeek, a survey of large companies found an average expenditure of $8.9 million per year on cyber security, with 100 per cent of firms surveyed reporting at least one malware incident in the preceding 12 months and 71 per cent reporting the hijacking of company computers by outsiders.
MONETARY LOSSES: The overall monetary losses from cyber crime can be immense. According to a 2012 report by Symantec, more than 1.5 million people fall victim to some sort of cyber crime every day, ranging from simple password theft to extensive monetary swindles. With an average loss of $197 per victim, this adds up to more than $110 billion dollars lost to cyber crime worldwide every year. As consumers get wise to traditional avenues of attack, cyber criminals have developed new techniques involving mobile devices and social networks to keep their illicit gains flowing.
PIRACY: The cyber crime of piracy has had major effects on entertainment, music and software industries. Claims of damages are hard to estimate and even harder to verify, with estimates ranging widely from hundreds of millions to hundreds of billions of dollars per year. In response, copyright holders have lobbied for stricter laws against intellectual property theft, resulting in laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These laws allow copyright holders to target file sharers and sue them for large sums of money to counteract the financial damage of their activities online.
SOCIAL IMPACTS: Cyber criminals take full advantage of anonymity, secrecy, and interconnectedness provided by the Internet, therefore, attacking the very foundations of our modern information society. Cyber crime can involve botnets, computer viruses, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, cyber terrorism, cyber pornography, denial of service attacks, hacktivism, identity theft, malware, and spam. Law enforcement officials have struggled to keep pace with cyber criminals, who cost the global economy billions annually. Police are attempting to use the same tools cyber criminals use to perpetrate crimes in an effort to prevent those crimes and bring the guilty parties to justice. This article begins by defining cyber crime and then moves to a discussion of its economic and social impacts. It continues with detailed excursions into cyber bullying and cyber pornography, two especially representative examples of cyber crime, and concludes with a discussion of ways to curtail the spread of cyber crime.
Computer-related crimes date back to the origins of computing though the greater connectivity between computers through the Internet has brought the concept of cyber crime into public consciousness of our information society. "Billions of dollars in losses have already been discovered. Billions more have gone undetected. Trillions will be stolen, most without detection, by the emerging master criminal of the twenty-first century-the cyberspace offender" (Stephens, 1995, p. 24).
EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF CYBER CRIME: A new study by Norton reveals the staggering prevalence of cyber crime. About 65 per cent of Internet users globally, and 73 per cent of US Web surfers have fallen victim to cyber crimes, including computer viruses, online credit card fraud and identity theft. As the most victimised nations, America ranks third, after China (83 per cent) and Brazil and India (76 per cent). The first study to examine the emotional impact of cyber crime shows that victims' strongest reactions are feeling angry (58 per cent), annoyed (51 per cent) and cheated (40 per cent), and in many cases, they blame themselves for being attacked. Only 3 per cent don't think it will happen to them, and nearly 80 per cent do not expect cyber criminals to be brought to justice resulting in an ironic reluctance to take action and a sense of helplessness.
Despite emotional burden, the universal threat and incidents of cyber crime, people still aren't changing their behaviour - with only half (51 per cent) of adults saying they would change their behaviour if they became a victim. Even fewer than half (44 per cent) reported the crime to the police. Nearly 80 per cent of cyber crimes are estimated to originate in some form of organised activity. The diffusion of the model of fraud-as-service and the diversification of the offerings of the underground market are also attracting new actors with modest skills. Cyber crime is becoming a business opportunity open to everybody driven by profit and personal gain.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Cyber crime is indeed getting the recognition it deserves. However, it is not going to restrict that easily. In fact, it is highly likely that cyber crime and its hackers will continue developing and upgrading to stay ahead of the law. So, to make us safer we must need cyber security. As someone rightly said, "Bytes are replacing bullets in the crime world". Cyber space offers a plethora of opportunities for cyber criminals either to cause harm to innocent people, or to make a fast buck at the expense of unsuspecting citizens. We know that forensic evidence is important in normal criminal investigations. But collection and presentation of electronic evidence to prove cyber crimes have posed a challenge to investigation and prosecution agencies and the judiciary. We need a good combination of laws and technology in harmony with the laws of other countries and keeping in mind common security standards. In the era of e-governance and e-commerce, a lack of common security standards can create havoc for global trade as well as military matters. The Organisation of American States (OAS) has suggested some recommendations made by the Group of Government Experts on Cyber Crime to:
(a) Identify one or more agencies within their country that will have primary authority and responsibility to investigate and prosecute cyber crime;
(b) Take steps to enact legislation covering cyber crime, if they have not already done so;
(c) Make every effort to harmonise their laws on cyber crime in such a way as to facilitate international cooperation in preventing and combating these illicit activities;
(d) Determine their training needs in the area of cyber crime and explore bilateral, regional, and multilateral cooperation mechanisms to meet those needs;
(e) Consider the possibility of becoming members of the 24-Hour/7-Day a Week Point of Contact Group, or participating in other existing mechanisms for cooperation or exchange of information in order to initiate or receive information;
(f) Take steps to heighten awareness of this issue among the general public, including users in education system, legal system, and justice system regarding the need to prevent and combat cyber crime;
(g) Consider various measures, including setting up of a Voluntary Specific Fund, to support efforts to expand cooperation on this matter in the Hemisphere;
(h) Promote, in the framework of the OAS, exchange of information on cyber crime and dissemination of information regarding activities in this field, including the OAS Web page on the subject;
(h) Ensure follow-up to the implementation of the recommendations of the Group of Government Experts in the framework of the OAS, taking into account the need to prepare guidelines to orient national efforts in the field of cyber crime through, for instance, development of model legislation or other pertinent legal instruments and training programmes.
The writer is an assistant professor at the Department of Sociology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU), Gopalganj.