Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities on the planet. Cybercrime is defined as the use of any computer network for crime and the high-tech criminals of the digital age have not been slow to spot the opportunities. The scope of the definition becomes even larger with the frequent companion or substitute term “computer-related crime.” Some writers are also of the opinion that “computer crime” refers to computer-related activities which are either criminal in the legal sense of the word or just antisocial behaviour where there is no breach of the law.
Given the extent to which computers have become a part of modern life, it was inevitable that some people would see the wired world as an opportunity to make money or cause mischief. Cybercriminals can range from teenagers who vandalise websites to terrorists who target a nation.
Cybercrime covers a huge range of illegal activityincluding financial scams, computer hacking, downloading pornographic images from the internet, virus attacks, stalking by e-mail and creating websites that promote racial hatred.
ü The term hacking was originally used to describe an audacious practical joke, but has become better known as a term for the activities of computer enthusiasts who pit their skills against the IT systems of governments and big corporations. Hackers sometime crack into systems to brag about their abilities to penetrate into systems, but others do it for illegal gain or other malicious purposes. The handiwork of some hackers, or "crackers" as they are known in the computer industry, has had disastrous results. The "love-bug" virus crippled at least 45 million computers worldwide and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.
ü Then there is fraud and extortion. Some hackers have broken into the computer systems of banks and other businesses, with the intention of stealing money - or information like credit card numbers, which are just as valuable to the criminal.
· 90% of US companies which responded to a Computer Security Institute survey said they had detected computer security breaches in the previous year
· 74% acknowledged financial losses as a result of the breaches of security
· 79% detected employee abuse of the internet, for example downloading pornography or pirated software
· 85% detected computer viruses
Gangsters can use computers for extortion. Burglary rings track break-ins and then inventory their winnings from each job. Gangsters who want to murder a person in hospital can crack the hospital’s computers to alter the dosage of medication.
Scams by cyber-criminals include setting up bogus companies on the Net. Unsuspecting buyers are offered products at tempting prices, and then supply their credit card details - only to find that the site suddenly disappears. No phone number, no address and no redress. The dot com becomes a dot con.
ü Another 21st century crime is identity theft. This usually does not involve hacking at all. Criminals can trawl the web or other public databases for information about someone's date of birth, social security number and address and then use that to apply for credit cards and run up huge bills. It is easy to do and as a result is one of the fastest growing crimes in the US.
ü Cyberstalking. The goal of a cyberstalker is control. Stalking and harassment over cyberspace is more easily practised than in real life. There are many cases where cyberstalking crosses over to physical stalking. Some examples of computer harassment are: - Live chat obscenities and harassment; - Unsolicited and threatening e-mail; - Hostile postings about someone; - Spreading vicious rumours about someone; - Leaving abusive messages on a website’s guest books.
ü Malicious codes like worms, viruses and Trojan horses cause damage on a greater scale. These exploit security vulnerabilities of a system and they tend to alter or destroy data. The damage they cause is worth millions of Ringgit to companies as well as government agencies. Worms are different from viruses because they are able to spread themselves with no user interaction. A virus can attack systems in many ways: by erasing files, corrupting databases and destroying hard disk drives.
Uuml; Industrial espionage. This is where corporations spy on other companies and with network systems, this can be an easy task. Companies can retrieve sensitive information rarely leaving behind any evidence. Cyberespionage can also be applied to nations that spy on other countries' sensitive information.
With so many cybercrimes on the rise the need for a cyberlaw is obvious, but the difficulties are baffling.
The internet is a global system. We can now be attacked by criminals who do not need to come to this territory. Lots of policing arrangements have their roots in the fact that victim and offender are geographically co-located. So the problem for all law-enforcement agencies is the way that cybercrime, like the internet itself, is not limited by national boundaries. An investigation that begins in one country may quickly lead elsewhere, but without the co-operation of other nations, it may be impossible to track down the perpetrators and secure convictions.
Then there’s a question of liberty. When the Council of Europe produced a draft treaty on cybercrime, it was deluged by e-mails from internet users concerned about possible infringements of their privacy and liberty. One complaint said that the proposals could have "a chilling effect on the free flow of information and ideas."
European officials say they have tried to address these concerns, and stress that their intention is simply to consolidate laws against activities such as hacking, spreading viruses, and computer fraud so that in future there is a standard way of securing the digital evidence needed for prosecutions.
2. Define the following words as they are used in the text:
-pit their skills against;
-trawl the web;
-deluged by e-mails.
3. Make use of the material contained in the previous text as well as your own information to answer the following questions:
1) Why is there a need for cyberlaw ?
2) How would you define cyberlaw?
3) What difficulties does cyberlaw involve?
4) Have you heard about any attempts to enact a law on cybercrimes?