Background Surrounding the Issue
Cybercrime can no longer be considered as an emerging trend because it has been envisaged in criminal law. This development had a positive impact on tackling the problem of cybercrimes. However, the motives for engaging in criminal activities have not changed over the years including profits and malicious and personal gains. As the law and other methods of crime-fighting became inhibitive to crime, tools, systems, and methods used by criminal syndicates also changed.
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The new ways make it difficult for law enforcement agencies and policymakers to catch up with them. Another factor has also emerged – cybercrime dilemma. It is difficult for policymakers and law enforcement agencies to develop a compromise between user requirements and crime combating. This paper studies the issue of cybercrime in relation to ethical concerns, the cybercrime dilemma, and the international involvement in the fight against cybercrime with a special focus on global interconnectedness.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly identified cybercrime as a major challenge in today’s interconnected world (Gercke, 2012). It has become a matter of concern today, but during the period of the advent of computers and the Internet, no one would have imagined that it would turn out to be an issue. Cybercrime posed institutional, legal, and technical challenges, which have far-reaching effects and are incognizant of national boundaries. Consequently, they require a global approach to control them.
Since 1960, the forms of cybercrime have developed tremendously. Cybercrime evolved during the 1960s with the invention of transistor-based computer systems, which made computers smaller and less expensive entailing the drastic increase in the use of computers as manual tools for data storage. At that time, cybercrime was mainly physical. Criminals damaged the computers physically to destroy the information stored on them. In the following decade, the 1970s, a new form of cybercrime emerged.
Although physical damage was still rampant, manipulation of electronic data and illegal use of computer systems took center stage. It caused the emergence of computer-related fraud that led to multimillion-dollar losses. Moving on to the next decade, the 1980s, software piracy, and patent-related crimes emerged. These forms of crimes emerged because of the increased interest in software development. Additionally, the interconnection of computers enabled people to send malicious software to other computers. In the 1990s, the graphical interface popularly referred to as the World Wide Web emerged. People could now share information through the system of computers connected via the Internet even if it was illegal. For this reason, cases of electronic transactional crimes became impetuous (Gercke, 2012).
In the 2000s, the emergence of new and sophisticated methods of computer technologies entailed the evolution of crime making it difficult for law enforcement institutions to follow and investigate. The need for a sophisticated technology created the cybercrime dilemma. Jeffray and Feakin (2015) claim that the developments in cyber technologies generate the fear of becoming a victim of cybercrime. It can be easily explained by the fact that these intricate systems gave rise to such crimes as identity theft and corporate espionage. It is aggravated by the possibility of endangering national security by hacking governmental databases – the so-called cyberterrorism, which jeopardizes both national and global stability and security (Tavani, 2011).
Current Issues that are Applicable
The failure of national and international legislation to catch up with the development of cybercrime can be explained by technical, ethical, and legal dilemmas that underplay the efforts of the global community to ensure cybersecurity (Jeffrey & Feakin, 2015). Amid the dilemmas, technological development fosters the existence of crime even before the victims are aware of it. The solution to this problem lies in resolving the dilemmas through an integrated approach uniting key stakeholders.
Technical dilemmas are caused by two main factors: technological development and incentives (Sackler, R. & Sackler, B., 2014). Users want conflicting things from communication and computer technology, but such requirements come at a cost. Consumers want convenience, anonymity under certain circumstances, and sophisticated technology. These attributes compete with the requirement for a secure system, which operates under the general rule: the simpler a system becomes, the easier a designer can detect cybercrime issues and stop them. At the same time, cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated because computer producers use a multi-dimensional approach, and criminals respond to it with new intricate threats (Jeffray & Feakin, 2015). The dilemma is that the developers have to decide between creating simple but manageable systems or sophisticated but vulnerable ones (Sackler, R. & Sackler, B., 2014).
The second dilemma is associated with the incentives coming up with the protection of computer systems. As Jeffrey and Feakin (2015) note, methods used to measure the impact of cybercrime are deficient because the accent is made on national and institutional levels instead of individual ones. The incentive for controlling cybercrime at a larger scale is higher because of the value of the information being protected. However, R. Sackler and B. Sackler (2014) claim that thwarting criminal activities at lower levels is easier and cheaper than disrupting it to higher levels, which creates a dilemma.
Ethical dilemma centers on the necessity to find the balance between privacy and data collection. Personal data has been the target of many cybercrimes because it can be used to access valuable information. Professional codes of conduct are not clear about determining the boundaries of privacy, i.e. what is the limit of information availability.
Significant strides have been made to combat cybercrime at the international level. Laws feature a great variety of cybercrimes including copyright infringements, child pornography, computer-related fraud, and violation of network security (Shull, 2014). They are deterrent enough but have not been successful because laws are adopted through international conventions, in which countries are free to decide whether they want to join. Many countries do not become signatories to the conventions leaving cybercrime uncontrolled and creating a legal dilemma.
The Global Impact of Cybercrimes
Cybercrime is a matter of international concern because it can affect the welfare of the global community. The justification for stating that cybercrimes have a robust global impact is the fact that usually people from different countries are involved in the crime, i.e. a perpetrator may live in another country with poor legal regulation.
For example, an American company can be hacked by a person from Nigeria. The primary source of international influence is espionage and stealing personal data. Some estimates instance that the number of those affected by cybercrime exceeds 800 million people. The dollar equivalent of this figure is even more spectacular – $400 billion of annual losses to the global economy – around 20% of economic value created by the Internet (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2014). This information proves that cybercrimes have an impact on the lives of people worldwide as well as the global economy. That is why it is a global concern.
Tackling the problem of cybercrime is a relatively recent trend. For the most part, it includes national legislation. However, in some cases, it is supplemented with bilateral and multilateral agreements, but their operation is limiting because signing into them is not obligatory. As of the primary legal acts regulating the area of combating cybercrimes, they involve data protection acts, privacy regulations controlling video, speech, and commerce privacy in cyberspace as well as various initiatives regarding fostering cybersecurity and codes of ethics (Tavani, 2011).
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The problem with the legislation is that it does not establish a comprehensive mechanism for investigating cybercrimes because they involve international channels for transmitting information and the cost of such crimes are often underestimated. That said, all proposed measures are preventive in their nature and center on ethics instead of legal concerns. Even though some types of cybercrimes imply criminal responsibility, for the most part, they lack legal components of crime.
International Approach to Cybercrime
Because the problem of cybercrime is trans-border, it requires a comprehensive approach involving the international community. In 2009, the US and China entered into a bilateral agreement in which Strategic and International Studies (CSIS of US) and Cybercrime China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR of China) discussed and agreed on various matters regarding cybercrime. Moreover, the United Nations (UN) through its initiative to combat cybercrime has engaged several countries in the formulation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) aimed at combating cybercrime (Levin & Ilkina, 2013). In addition to it, numerous countries, through own initiatives, have formed various unions to control cybercrime in member states.
For example, European countries under the guidance of the European Council adopted the Convention on Cybercrime containing provisions used as a foundation for the formulation of domestic legislations to tame cybercrime (Levin & Ilkina, 2013). Other international organizations involved in combating cybercrime across international boundaries include the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
The most common example of cybercrime is a hacking attack. For example, in the United States, more than 3,000 companies were hacked in 2013. One of the British companies reported losses of more than £1 billion as the result of stealing intellectual property after a hacker attack. The same is true about 34 of Macy 500 Fortune companies involved in various sectors from chemicals to information technology. Brazilian and the Persian Gulf Banks officially state that their customers lose millions of dollars annually because of cyberfraud. There are more than 300,000 reports of website hacks from India. Even Google was hacked in 2010 (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2014).
Personal Point of View
The challenge of cybercrimes is crucial, especially keeping in mind the global interconnectedness of not only computer systems but also economic, political, and social life. It has become a matter of concern because of the direct impact on the welfare of the global community and maintaining global peace. I believe that solving this problem requires a comprehensive strategy including the adoption of strict international legislation and making it obligatory to join it by all countries without exception. Unlike the unenforced signing into conventions and bilateral and multilateral agreements, similar obligingness will enact real changes in cybercrime combatting.
Cybercrime is a multifaceted problem, which cannot be restrained by national boundaries. Additionally, it is a source of huge profit for the perpetrators. However, the lack of strong international cooperation and investment into necessary expertise exposes computer systems to cybercrime. While the professional codes of conduct tame the vice to a reasonable extent, they are weak in preventing it. The challenge of cybercrimes is aggravated by technical, ethical, and legal dilemmas, which make key stakeholders indecisive when it comes to enhancing cybersecurity.
Center for Strategic and International Studies. (2014). Net losses: Estimating the global cost of cybercrime.
Gercke, M. (2012). Understanding cybercrime: Phenomena, challenges and legal response.
Jeffray, C., & Feakin, T. (2015). Underground web: The cybercrime challenge.
Levin, A., & Ilkina, D. (2013). International comparison of cyber crime.
Sackler, R., & Sackler, B. (2014). Cyber security dilemma: Technology, policy and incentives.
Shull, A. (2014). Global cybercrime: The interplay of politics and law.
Tavani, H. T. (2011). Ethics and technology: Controversies, questions, and strategies for ethical computing (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.