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Article

Cyberpolicing  

Jin R. Lee

Cybercrime is generally understood as behaviors that involve the use of virtual environments and/or networked computer systems to generate harm. This broad definition of cybercrime captures a variety of different online behaviors, including interpersonal violence offenses such as cyberbullying and online harassment, as well as those involving the unauthorized use and access of computer systems such as malware dissemination, ransomware, and distributed denial of service attacks. Cybercrimes are policed by both law enforcement (e.g., local, state or provincial, federal) and extralegal agencies. Local law enforcement agencies are composed of police officers, who are generally tasked with maintaining public order within a specific municipality or county, including investigating crimes, apprehending offenders, and implementing crime prevention mechanisms (e.g., educating the public on available resources; proactive neighborhood patrol) within their local jurisdiction. State and provincial law enforcement agencies are larger police forces that are generally responsible for conduct that occurs within their wider state and provincial borders, including conducting highway traffic control and providing forensic services to smaller local agencies residing within their state or province. State and provincial agencies often become involved only when local forces are limited in their resources to adequately respond to an incident or when local jurisdictional conflicts exist. Federal agencies operate at the highest level of law enforcement, because they deal with crimes that involve homeland security. In fact, federal agencies can obtain cooperation among several national jurisdictions depending on existing political ties and extradition agreements. Several extralegal agencies (e.g., Internet Crime Complaint Center; Computer Emergency Response Teams) are also active in responding to cybercrime incidents. These agencies, which may develop from either public or private sectors, generally perform acts that support law enforcement, including facilitating communication and information sharing between victims and law enforcement agencies. Despite efforts to sanction online offenses, research suggests that cybercrimes present several challenges for law enforcement agencies across all levels of government. First, cybercrime offenders often anonymize their attacks and offline identities, making arrests and criminal prosecutions extremely challenging. Second, even if offenders and their actions are identified, agencies are limited by their geographic location and jurisdiction. Third, the technical nature of cybercrime means that victims may not be aware of their victimization until months after the attack, which may affect the identification of digital evidence necessary to prosecute an offender. Fourth, law enforcement officers may not possess the knowledge and expertise needed to secure and investigate a digital crime scene adequately. One approach that could improve how cybercrimes are enforced and regulated is the paradigm of evidence-based policing (EBP). EBP is a collective effort involving law enforcement agencies, academic researchers, and industry personnel/practitioners, whose central focus is to develop a robust evidence base that can identify current and emerging problems in policing, examine possible solutions to these problems using rigorous scientific methods, and monitor these solutions over extended periods of time to ensure successful outcomes are maintained. Knowing which operational practices work best in different situations will not only lead to a more intentional use of officers’ time and agency resources but also strengthen public perceptions of law enforcement in responding to cybercrime calls for service.

Article

Identity Theft  

Dylan Reynolds

Identity theft commonly refers to the illegal theft and misuse of another person’s identity information, resulting in a benefit to the offender or harm to the victim. With the rise of technological payment systems, identity theft increased dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s and impacts almost 1 in 10 adults annually. Identity theft can be difficult to measure, in part because few victims report it to law enforcement and government agencies and because victims often have limited knowledge about how their information was obtained and misused. Identity theft can involve the misuse of existing bank, credit, or other accounts, the creation of new accounts, or other fraudulent misuses of personal information. Moreover, the methods of acquiring identity information vary and include hacking, phishing, and stealing physical documents. While identity theft’s rise results from increasing technological reliance, the relative prevalence of online and offline forms remains unknown. The limited research on identity theft offenders finds that their motives and techniques vary, but that committing identity theft is usually a rational choice and that offenders often use techniques to neutralize identity theft behaviors. More research exists on identity theft victims, due, in part, to identity theft victimization surveys, which find that victims face a range of consequences and reporting options. Globally, both criminal and consumer protection laws have been implemented or modified to respond to identity theft, although victims must typically advocate for themselves to resolve identity theft’s consequences.

Article

Gangs and Social Media  

David C. Pyrooz and Richard K. Moule, Jr.

It was once presumed that costs of Internet adoption were too great for gang members to absorb. They lacked the financial resources to access the Internet or the technological know-how to use it. That is no longer the case, which leads to two questions: What are gang members doing online? What are the responses to gangs online? The growing research on this topic indicates that gang members are online and using the Internet at a rate comparable to their peers. This occurs in the United States and abroad. Gangs do not exploit the Internet to its criminal potential, even though the law enforcement community suggests otherwise. This is most likely due to the low technological capacities of gang members. However, gang members do engage in higher rates of crime and deviance online than their non-gang peers. Gang members also use the Internet to posture, provoke, and project group power, particularly on leading social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which in turn allows activities occurring online to have ramifications for crime and violence offline. It is debatable whether online space is as important to gangs as physical space, but the Internet is undoubtedly a valuable medium to gangs. The potential for conflict and the posting of gang images has attracted the attention of law enforcement as well as researchers to document this activity. Platforms are being developed to anticipate the spilling of online gang conflicts offline. Since the Internet is a value-neutral medium that engages youth and young adults, it is anticipated that social media and the Internet will continue to appeal to gangs and gang members for the foreseeable future.

Article

Cyberstalking Victimization  

Erin Faucher and Jaeyong Choi

The creation and accessibility of technology have led to an increased use of the virtual world. The percentage of Internet users is increasing, especially with the advent of social media, which subsequently heightens the risk of cyberstalking incidents. Generally, cyberstalking involves the repeated pursuit or harassment of a target by a stalker through digital technology. However, there is no universal working definition of cyberstalking that has been agreed upon by policymakers and academics. Still, there are noticeable patterns involving methods of and risk factors for cyberstalking perpetration and victimization. Moreover, perceptions of cyberstalking among the general population and victims have been studied empirically. Research on cyberstalking ranges from the issues involving definitions and prevalence of cyberstalking to intervention and prevention efforts to stop stalking behaviors in cyberspace. A review of such literature on cyberstalking can shed light on what is known and unknown regarding cyberstalking.

Article

White-Collar Delinquency  

Andrea Schoepfer

Studies of white-collar crime have largely focused on the crimes and immoral and unethical actions of adults during the course of their legitimate occupations, yet adults are not the only offenders, and white-collar crimes don’t always require employment. By narrowing the focus to who can offend, we may miss out on a fuller understanding of the phenomenon. The specific category of “white-collar delinquency” has been proposed to address this gap in the research. The original conceptualization of white-collar delinquency focused on crimes of juveniles that are of major financial and social consequence. The concept largely focuses on computer crimes, fraud, and crimes of skill, including piracy, securities fraud, espionage, denial of service attacks, hacking, identity fraud, dissemination of worms and viruses, and other crimes that can result in serious economic harm. Just as juveniles engage in conventional street crime offenses as do adult offenders, they also possess the ability to engage in white-collar offenses as do adult offenders, and there is a need to study the two age groups separately, as motivations, influences, and opportunities may differ. The literature thus far has largely ignored juvenile involvement in white-collar crimes due to the nature of the phenomenon, the reliance on offender-based definitions, and the presumption of opportunities to engage in the actions. Some white-collar offenses that were historically committed exclusively by adults have a place in the juvenile community as well. This “migration” has taken place for a number of reasons, with the majority of them closely tied to the nearly limitless access juveniles currently have to technology. Due to the overwhelming popularity of personal computers in homes and marked advancements in technology, opportunities for hybrid white-collar crimes (e.g., credit card fraud, identity theft, hacking, phishing, general fraud, intellectual property theft, financial/bank fraud) have dramatically increased, yet criminological studies focusing on technology related crimes have, until recently, been relatively sparse, and studies of fraud have predominately focused on characteristics of the victims as opposed to the offenders. As access to computers and the internet grow, so too do opportunities to engage in these types of crimes. Juveniles are able to interact with others from the privacy of their own homes with the benefit of complete anonymity. This anonymity may contribute to the appeal of computer-related delinquency, as such acts involve almost no confrontation and no violence, and are individualistic in nature. These individualistic crimes may attract those who would normally avoid more conventional crimes that involve confrontation. Technology has opened the door for a new type of offender and new types of offending. Although it is difficult to identify an exact dollar amount, financial losses from serious computer crimes such as audio, video, and software piracy; security breaches; and intellectual property theft are likely to exceed the financial losses from conventional crimes, and it is therefore imperative that more attention be given to these types of crimes and perpetrators. Theoretical explanations for this new category of crime have not yet been fully explored for many reasons. First, technology advances much faster than the laws regulating behavior. Second, apprehension and prosecution for crimes of technology are relatively low, and thus little data exists for theory testing with these crimes and offenders. Finally, computer and technology crimes fall into a gray area; they are not necessarily either property crimes or traditional white-collar crimes. In criminology, computer crimes tend to fall into a “hybrid” or “other” category of white-collar crime and as such are often ignored in studies on white-collar crime. Furthermore, juveniles are often overlooked in white-collar crime research due to their status and limited access to opportunity. By proposing the term “white-collar delinquency,” researchers hope to bring more focus to the understudied topic of juveniles engaging in crimes of serious economic consequence.

Article

Online Crime  

Majid Yar

The development of the Internet and related communication technologies has had a transformative effect upon social, political, economic, and cultural life. It has also facilitated the emergence of a wide range of crimes that take shape in the spaces of virtual communication. These offenses include technology-oriented crimes such as hacking and the distribution of malicious software; property-oriented crimes such as media piracy, theft, and fraud; and interpersonal offenses such as stalking, harassment, and sexual abuse. In many instances, these crimes serve to entrench and exacerbate existing patterns of victimization, vulnerability, and inequality, along lines of difference related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and income. The anonymized and globally distributed nature of the Internet creates huge challenges for crime prevention, detection, and prosecution of online offenses.

Article

Money Laundering: History, Regulations, and Techniques  

Benjámin Villányi

The goal of money laundering is to hide the tainted origin of criminal revenue. In this sense, it is a secondary crime that is always connected to another breach of law. These offenses can be different types of theft, trade in illicit goods, as well as other non-violent acts such as tax fraud, bribery, and, nowadays more relevantly, cybercrime. Depending on the size of the unlawful income, criminals may launder on their own or collaborate with other specialists. Especially in cases of large-scale tax evasion, grand corruption, transnational drug trafficking and similar highly organized forms of crime, laundering can entail very complex schemes performed in multiple countries. To describe and analyze this activity, a three-stage model is a widely accepted framework. The placement is the first step, when the illicit money is introduced into the financial system. The layering involves multiple transactions to remove the traces of these funds, while in the last stage criminals attempt to integrate the laundered money into the legal economy through various kinds of investments. Beginning with the 1970s, increasing international cooperation aimed to counter this activity and set standards that were later adapted to national judicial systems. Different types of crime were the focus of such approaches, which also shaped the methods used. During the Prohibition era rum-running and illegal gambling raised the most concern, later the war on drugs, and from the early 2000s the war on terror, and more recently the cryptocurrencies are in focus of anti-money laundering. The financial extent of worldwide money laundering is difficult to estimate with reasonable precision, but it is comparable to national economies in magnitude. Money laundering can have a social as well as financial impact, especially when it helps corrupt politicians to stay in power, decreases tax morale to unfeasible depths or enables organized criminals to take over whole economic sectors and geographic areas.

Article

Virtual Currency, Cryptoassets, and Cybercrime  

Tessa Cole and R.V. Gundur

Cryptoassets, particularly cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens, which are underwritten by distributed ledger technology, have become an increasing focus of financial institutions, investors, government regulators, and criminal actors. Colloquially known as “crypto,” cryptoassets represent a small proportion of value in financial systems around the world. Nonetheless, cryptoassets represent a potentially disruptive force and are, in their own right, a financial ecosystem. Cryptocurrency, specifically, has a variety of properties that are appealing to both licit and illicit actors: It is, generally, pseudonymous and irrevocable, and its transactions do not necessarily require a third party. Despite these features, the value of cryptocurrency has been volatile, and even though one, bitcoin, has been adopted as legal tender in two countries, cryptocurrency has not replaced fiat currency or become part of most people’s financial experiences. Crime related to cryptocurrency has increased with its proliferation and appreciation, with victims’ losses being in the tens of billions and increasing on an annual basis. Cybercriminals steal both cryptocurrency outright and the resources to “mine” it. Extortionists, such as ransomware operators and online blackmailers, may request cryptocurrency for payment, since cryptocurrency can be difficult to trace. Fraudsters defraud people by taking advantage of low-information environments, increasing interest in cryptocurrency, and consumers’ fear of missing out on the “next big thing.” These frauds include misinformation campaigns that convince investors to buy into bogus projects, the manipulation of cryptocurrency and nonfungible token projects, and the mimicking of legitimate projects to convince people to send their investments to scammers and not to legitimate technologists’ accounts. As the losses related to, and volume of, cryptocurrency and victimization in cryptoasset-related crime have increased, so too has the attention that governments pay to cryptoassets and cryptoasset service providers (CASPs). However, regulating cryptoassets is difficult, but not impossible, although decentralized finance presents its own challenges. Most cryptocurrency users make use of centralized CASPs. Moreover, the Financial Stability Board and the Financial Action Task Force have issued guidance regarding the regulation of cryptocurrency and cryptoassets. Uptake of these suggestions has been uneven but is increasing. Even so, capacity to investigate crimes and cryptocurrency is limited; however, there is broad recognition that governments must develop public–private partnerships to approach a semblance of oversight.

Article

Cybercrime Perpetration Theories  

Theodore Curry

Theories of cybercrime perpetration seek to identify and explain the causes of individual- and/or group-level variation in the performance of cybercriminal behavior. Fundamental to this effort is a debate pertaining to whether extant theories of crime, previously developed to explain crime in the physical world, are useful for accounting for cybercrime or whether new theories, explicitly aimed at cybercrime, are needed. This debate hinges largely on the question of whether cybercrimes can be considered to be a type of crime in general, or whether there are features of cybercrime, such as the lack of physical contact between victims and offenders or the dissociative anonymity afforded by the collapse of time-space barriers that occurs in cyberspace, that sufficiently differentiate cybercrime from crime in the physical world such that new theories are needed to explain its occurrence. To date, however, scholars have relied almost exclusively on extant theory in cybercrime studies and only one new theory has been developed that focuses exclusively on cybercrime. Moreover, cybercrime theory has focused heavily on individual-level variation in cybercrime and largely ignored group-level variation, which is a shortcoming because understanding differences across, for example, different nations or political or religious groups, is an important part of the study of crime in the physical world. Another important problem is that basic facts about cybercriminals and victims (e.g., the approximate proportion of offenders who are male or female) are largely unknown due to a lack of systematically collected, representative, or longitudinal data on cybercrime—a situation that hinders the development of cybercrime theory. Research testing cybercrime theory shows support for a number of theories from the field of criminology, especially general strain, low self-control, social learning, and techniques of neutralization and drift. A notable development in this literature are findings that social learning and low self-control theories, working in an integrated fashion, are found to provide an especially useful explanation for cybercrime such that, on their own, individuals with low self-control may not engage in a great deal of cybercrime owing to the complexity that such offending often entails. However, if low self-control individuals have friends who engage in cybercrime, they may learn the skills needed to commit certain cybercrimes and, as a result, start offending at higher levels. Psychological studies also provide important results, including that cybercriminals tend to be more introverted than offenders in the physical world, which may tap into the dissociative anonymity afforded by offending in cyberspace. Psychological research also shows that individuals with higher levels of psychopathy are more involved in cybercrimes, particularly those that entail aggression or attempts to cause harm to others, and that more impulsive (a concept that is similar to low self-control in criminology) individuals engage in more cybercrime.