Cyber crime, sometimes known as electronic crime, involves use of computer networks to develop special software that make it possible for one to steal identities, data or credit card numbers for use in criminal activities. A cyber criminal uses the information acquired in this way for his own advantage. For instance, he may use credit card information to pay for goods and services or even open other accounts. After benefiting from this crime, the criminal abandons all the accounts, leaving the account owner with the burden of paying huge debts.
Cyber criminals, upon getting important information from internet users, often use blackmail to benefit from their acts. Victims of the crime are forced to pay huge sums of money to the criminals in order to prevent them from releasing sensitive or embarrassing information on the internet. In order to hide their identity, these criminals may instruct the victim to pay the money through an untraceable money transfer system thereby making complete use of technology to succeed in their criminal activities.
Illegal access to classified information of companies, organizations and institutions is also classified as cyber crime. Some people use a company’s financial information to make unauthorized purchases using this data. Additionally, the criminal may choose to withdraw funds from the company’s account before transferring them into many accounts that are difficult to trace. Sometimes, cyber criminals are not interested in stealing money from the company; all they want is to obtain proprietary information of a client and then sell it to different competitors.
In order to deal with cyber crime, different countries have independently passed legislation that defines all the cyber activities that should be regarded as cyber crime. However, due to the international nature of information technology, notes Britz, there is need for all countries to come together and pass an international cyber crime treaty (25).
Obtaining authoritative statistics on cyber crime is not as easy as it seems. Just like in all other criminal activities, many cases of cyber crime are not reported. It therefore becomes very hard for authorities to compile a comprehensive electronic crime report that gives a hint on trends within a certain period. However, many countries around the world have been trying to engage each other in compiling all incidences of cyber crime that are reported. In the U. S. the FBI documents cyber crime activities in order to investigate fraud, embezzlement, identity theft and terrorist activities.
Cyber crime may manifest itself in the traditional form, whereby computers as well as networks are the main tools of perpetuating an illegal activity. Additionally, the existence of a network may constitute a cyber crime if the network contains evidence of activities relating to traditional cyber crime.
Spamming and certain copyright crimes are some of the ways through which electronic or information crime manifests itself. Unauthorized access, sometimes referred to cracking, hacking or computer trespass, is perhaps the most typical manifestation of cyber crime. In more complicated terms, some criminals create malicious codes, also known as malware in order to attack critical infrastructure such as industrial control systems and telecommunications networks.
Vulnerability caused by cyber crime both at the national and international level is a cause of concern all over the world today. In the context of international security, Nykodym observes that hackers may engage in activities that influence the course of important decisions that affect matters of policy (412). Other challenges posed include information warfare and traditional espionage on the information technology platform.
Cyber crime has become a global problem due to the global reach of internet-based networks. The main challenge to the fight against this crime is the relative anonymity that internet users can maintain in the cyberspace. It is rather difficult to relate online entities with real people in the physical world unless one is found accessing a network suspected to be perpetuating cyber crimes.
Presence of many third parties on the cyberspace provides cyber criminals with new opportunities for engaging criminal activities. The third parties may be telecommunication providers, internet service providers and even the victims themselves. These third parties maintain complete control of the communication infrastructure that the criminals use to perpetuate illegal activities. For this reason, unless the third parties allow investigators to access them and understand their mode of operation, the criminals may easily get away with their crimes.
Cyber crimes may also take the form of cyber attacks. These crimes might be motivated by individuals, organizations or even nation states. The motive may be monetary gain, political interests, and ill-will or sheer curiosity. These attacks often involve destruction or theft of crucial information, disruption of a government services or business. These cyber crimes may be perpetuated simultaneously with physical damage and vandalism on communication infrastructure, making immediate response efforts very challenging and unproductive.