Millions of people around the world use computers and the internet everyday. We all use it in school, work even at home, computers have made us life easier, it has brought so many benefits to society but it has also brought some problems, cybercrimes is one of them. The internet could be considered a type of community of computer networks, therefore we could consider it a society. Like in every society, in the internet there is commerce, education, entertainment, and of course there is crime, cybercrime. Real life society has police and laws to regulate people actions, unfortunately right now the internet is missing this type of control. Governments around the world need to work together to find a solution to this problem. The solution is in the creation and implementation of international laws that deal specifically with cybercrimes.
To be able to understand cybercrimes we need to know where it all started, it all started with the birth of the internet. The internet is a computer-based global information system composed of many interconnected computer networks (Beekman, 1999). Internet works through a system of switching from computer to computer packets of information. Packet switching began in the 1960s in the United States when the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funded a research project that created a packet switching network known as the ARPANET. ARPA also created networks that worked through satellites. By 1970 ARPA had a problem, the networks it had created where incompatible, so they focused on investigating ways to intercommunicate their networks. The solution to the problem came with the creation of a protocol that every network could understand the TCP/IP protocol, and the internet started. In the early 1980 a group of academic computer scientists formed the Computer Science NETwork, which used TCP/IP protocols, also government agencies started to link their networks using the TCP/IP protocol. Later in the 1980s large commercial companies began to use TCP/IP to build private internets and ARPA investigated transmission of multimedia across the Internet. Little by little new technologies such as hypertext, helped create the World Wide Web. Initially the WWW was created to communicate physicists around the world. Also during the late 1980s the government of the United Stated began to take away the restrictions of who could use the Internet, and commercialization of the Internet began. In the 1990s without the restrictions the internet began to be used by everybody. Now the internet is used by universities, companies, schools, government agencies, families and individual users (Encarta, 2001).
Cybercrimes are committed by using computers, so they could be considered computer crimes. Computer crimes started in the 1960s with the introduction of computers into businesses and government agencies. Through the years computers and computer crimes have evolved, now most of computer crimes are done through the internet (Godwin, 1995). Right now it is estimated that $100 billion dollars is lost annually because of cybercrimes and 97% of the offenses go undetected (Gebhardt, 2001). Cybercrimes will continue to evolve becoming more and more dangerous.
Right now there are different types of cybercrimes, the most important and dangerous are the following. Computer network break-ins, this type of crime is performed by hackers that break into computer systems to steal data or plant viruses, this type of crime has been made illegal by the U.S. federal government but its detection is difficult; Industrial espionage, this occurs when a corporation hires a hacker to obtain information about another corporation; Software piracy, this the illegal copying and distribution of software, this copies of software work as well as the originals but are much cheaper because it is very simple to create this copies; Mail bombings, this type of crime consist in ordering the computer to repeatedly send electronic mail to a specified person’s email address to saturate the recipients personal account and by this way be able to shut down entire systems; Password sniffers, this are programs that monitor and record user names and passwords of network users, when the cybercriminal obtains this information he can perform malicious activities in the network as well as be able to obtain valuable information; Credit card fraud, cybercriminals access large databases of credit card information (Digital Century, on-line). As we can see there are many types of cybercrimes and all of this crimes need solutions and there is a need to control all this crimes.
The persons that commit this crimes are very often computer expertise, and are considered either hackers or crackers (Alexander, Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 185). A hacker somebody who uses computer expertise to be able to gain unauthorized access to a computer system to learn about the system or to examine its data (Beekman, 2000). A cracker is also a person that access a computer system but with the intention of performing malicious activities. Almost any type of person can be a cybercriminal, they could be students, terrorists, amateurs or members of organized crime to name a few. Cybercrimes committed in companies are performed 90% of the times by the companys own employees (Walker, 2001). The motivation of cybercriminals to commit this crimes is usually revenge, a desire to be notice, the technical challenge, economic gain or the promotion of an ideology. Cybercriminals ages range from ten to sixty years (Gonzaga University, on-line), this is creates a problem in the creation of laws, because you cant judge the same a 10 year old kid and a 60 year old person. As we can see cybercriminals come in all forms and there is not one specific type of person that commits this crimes, each cybercriminal has its own characteristics an its own motives.
The internet has grown very fast, it has revolutionized business and communication in a very short period of time, but the laws that regulate the use and misuse of the internet havent developed as quickly. The internet is used world wide and most of the countries lack laws that regulate the internet, one of the few countries that has taken action into regulating the internet and its crimes is the United States. The United States FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center are dedicated to detecting and preventing all types of computer-related crime (Digital Century, on-line). During the last few years the United States congress and courts have started responding to the threat posed by cybercrimes (Pbs, on-line). The United States has created laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that punish cybercrimes. The CFAA prohibits accessing a computer without authorization and subsequently transmitting classified government information; Theft of financial information; accessing a “protected computer,” which the courts have recently interpreted as being any computer connected to the internet, even if the intruder obtains no data; computer fraud; transmitting code that causes damage to a computer system; trafficking in computer passwords for the purpose of affecting interstate commerce or a government computer; and computer extortion. Someone convicted under the CFAA could face a prison sentence as long as 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 (cybercrime, on-line). Unfortunately all this laws only are valid in the United States, in most countries, existing laws may be unenforceable against cybercrimes acts, because the laws cant be applied to this new era of computer crime.
Most of the cybercrimes that occur are not punished. In the United States since the creation of the CFFA, there has been several trials that have convicted cybercriminals. Take for example the Corey Lindsly trial, he was sentenced by a federal court for hacking into computer systems belonging Sprint Corporation, Southwestern Bell and GTE, illegally obtaining long distance calling card numbers and selling these stolen calling card numbers. He was sentenced to forty-one months imprisonment and ordered to pay $10,000 to the victim corporations (cybercrime, on-line).
The usual penalty for cybercriminals is time in prison and or a fine depending on the crime, also cybercriminals are sometimes prohibited to use computer systems for long periods of time. As we can see some cybercrimes are punished, unfortunately this only occurs in the United States, most of the cyberimes performed outside the United States go unpunished.
A recent study by research agency, the Gartner Group, has estimated that financial damage caused by cyber crime will increase by between 1,000% and 10,000% by 2004 (interpol-assembly2001, on-line). This translates into millions of dollars in economic loss. If we realize the threat cybercrimes really have we can realize that there is a need to regulate the internet, and control cybercrimes. Governments worldwide are now taking the threat of cyber crime very seriously its high on the agenda at international meetings. The solution to the cybercrime problem is in the creation and implementation of international laws. Governments around the world need to work together to create special laws that will only concern cybercrimes. There is also the need for the creation of a special international police that will investigate cybercrimes. The laws created need to have harsh punishments on cybercriminals so they wont commit the same crimes again.
Cybercriminals need to be prohibited of using computer systems for long periods of time, with this you can ensure that this criminals wont commit cybercrimes. With the creation of this laws, there will also be the need to implement them, governments need to ensure this laws will be respected and enforced around the world. Countries will have to monitor each other to realize this laws are enforced. With this solutions it is certain the cybercrime problem will be resolved.
In my opinion cybercrimes is the result of the lack of control governments have over the Internet. The internet grew so fast, governments didnt have the time to control it. I consider cybercrimes a threat to our society because valuable information is stored in computers, and cybercriminals can access it and even alter it. The problem I see in combating cybercrime is that countries try to combat it internally, they dont realize cybercrime is a world wide problem that needs to be fought in group. Governments need to pay more attention to cybercrimes to protect society from cybercriminals.
As we can see cybercrimes are a real problem that need a real solution. It is certain cybercrimes are the crimes of today and of the future. We cannot permit that a few cybercriminals be responsible for millions of dollars in economic loses. Information stored in computers needs to be protected from cybercriminals. In general we can conclude that the government needs to gain control of the internet.