Crime and the Internet- Cybercrime


The arrival of internet greeted with concern by many criminologists, if not outright moral panic. Its power and reach has the potential to take the world by storm. The #me too movement is glaring example of the power of internet to create global movements with unprecedented consequences.

History of Internet:

Early experiments with a worldwide computer network began in the 1960s and 1970s. Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer were not launched until the 1990s and it was in the middle of that decade that full-scale commercialisation of the internet took place. By 2007 there were well over one billion internet users, a figure that had increased to almost 3.5 billion by the end of 2015. As access and usage have grown, so concerns have developed about the misuse of this form of communication. The term ‘cybercrime’ has now entered everyday language and is defined by Thomas and Loader as ‘computer mediated activities which are either illegal or considered illicit by certain parties and which can be conducted through global electronic networks’.

Kinds of Cybercrime:

Wall (2001) subdivides cybercrime into four primary categories:

1 Cyber-trespass:

Crossing limits into other individuals’ property as well as causing harm, e.g. hacking, viruses etc. A variety of activities comes under this general heading. ‘Hacking’ itself comes in numerous pretenses, however, includes straightforward offence of gaining unauthorised access to a computer system. There is then a range of activities that may occur once access has been gained, from theft to sabotage. Such threats include attacks on systems that control power grids; crippling transport systems such as air or rail; and stealing information about defence and national security systems (Yar, 2006). Recently, the database of Careem, a taxi services was hacked and personal information and security of around 140 Million users were compromised.

2 Cyber-deceptions and thefts:

One of the essential highlights of the web – the capacity to contact very large numbers of people and to disguise or misrepresent one’s identity – provides considerable opportunity for fraud. Stealing credit card information and intellectual rights violation are common examples of cyber deception and thefts. Even the internet banking in many developing countries is not safe from the attackers who may hack the account of users and appropriate funds. Similarly, the theft of copyrighted material is common these days.

  • Phishing 

What on the surface appears to be legitimate electronic letters from banks and building societies. The message contains an alert, warning the recipient that security measures are being checked, updated, changed and so on. There is then a form to complete which requires the individual’s banking details. Having handed over such details, of course, any bank or building society accounts are at risk. In addition to gaining illegal access to bank accounts, such phishing gangs also trade in personal details, selling them on to others for advertising and other purposes.

3 Cyber-pornography:

Breaking laws on pornography and indecency. Here we are dealing to a great extent with longstanding criminal offenses yet newer methods for transmission and sale. Pornographic websites account for around 10% of all websites on the internet. The cyber pornography has become a huge business worldwide with many dark web operations. One of the central issues in relation to cyber-porn concerns what types of image are considered ‘obscene’ and worthy of policing. Cyberporn is inherently more difficult to police – and prosecute – than other forms of publication, because the very nature of ‘publication’ is less easy to define.

  • Child Pornography:

Undoubtedly the major concern in this area, and one where there is something closer to agreement about the unacceptability of the material, is that of child pornography. According to Jewkes (2003c) it was concern about pornography involving minors on the one hand and children gaining access to pornographic websites on the other that was the primary driver behind the establishment of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, the Internet Watch Foundation and the European Commission’s hotlines for the reporting of illegal content on the Net.

4 Cyber-Violence:

Doing psychological harm to, or inciting physical harm against, others, thereby breaching laws relating to the protection of the person, e.g. hate speech, stalking. Johnson (2003) defines ‘cyberstalking’ as ‘undesirable, debilitating or hostile email or other individual correspondence over the internet that that persists in spite of requests by the victim that it be stopped’. It might likewise be indirect– aimed for a specific individual, yet not sent specifically to them. Most culprits are men and the majority of victims are women. According to Yar (2006: 129) cyberstalking appears to differ from more general stalking in that it is ‘more likely to remain mediated and at a distance. In other words, it is less likely to entail direct, face to- face harassment in which perpetrator and victim are physically co-present.’ Cyberstalking tends to remain online – though this does not necessarily diminish its impact. However, a student in Pakistan namely Mashal Khan was tortured to death by his fellow students over the allegation of blasphemy he allegedly committed on internet. Thus, actual physical violence may happen due to activities done on internet.


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