Crime, a social and economic phenomenon has been with us since the advent of civilization. It is a legal wrong that is as old as human society. Legal scholars have defined it as a conduct accompanied by act or omission prohibited by law and consequential breach of which is visited by penal consequences.
Over the past couple of years, with the advent of the information revolution, society is witnessing a new form of criminal behavior called cybercrime. It isgenerally referred to as any criminal act dealing with computers and computer networks.
Cybercrime has been classified into three broad categories-crime against individuals (i.e., the person or his/her property); crime against organizations (such as companies, corporations, or government establishment); and crime against society at large. Examples of crime against individuals or individual property are cyber-stalking, email harassment, email spoofing, cyber defamation, computer vandalism, virus transmission, internet time theft, among others.
Examples of crime against organizations are distribution of pirated software, possession of unauthorized information, and cyber terrorism against the government or governmental organizations. Examples of crime against society are child pornography, financial crimes, sale of illegal articles, online gambling, among others.
Other traditional crimes conducted through the internet fall under the rubric of cybercrime. Among them are telemarketing, Internet fraud, identity theft, web jacking, credit card account theft, and a host of others. The involvement of a virtual cyber medium to commit any of the above crimes will be considered as cybercrime.
Today, the concept “Cyberspace” has emerged to refer to the whole of the physical and logical media that comprise the information and communication system infrastructures. Cyberspace is now an essential part of our culture Thus, we need to understand cybercrime within this broad context of cyberspace.
Cybercrime is now regarded as a business worth tens of billions of dollars a year. Some estimates put cybercrime ahead of the drug trafficking trade. This is because the internet provides an anonymous platform and a global reach for cybercriminals. This reduces the risks of apprehension and successful prosecution.
Cybercrime is growing faster in Africa than on any other continent. A recent Internet Crime Report cites the top ten countries of cybercrime (in descending order) as the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Romania, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Russia, and Ghana.
Through the use of various internet tools such as skype, email, and internet relay chats, perpetrator are able to lure their victims into such virtual spaces, and social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Myspace, etc.), engage them in persuasive dialogue over a period of time, develop false legal documents, and create a situation that convinces their victims to either transfer money or make available their credit card details to the perpetrators.
How do we combat cybercrime. Fact is, there is no easy solution to this international challenge. This is because most of the existing laws are unenforceable against cybercrime.
Thus, law enforcers have to use their discretion in prosecuting such crimes.This calls for legislation to fight cyber crime. For example, the Indian parliament passed the Information Technology Act in 2000 to control the affairs of the cyberworld.
It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. There is the need to take certain precaution when using the internet. SaileshkumarZarkar, an IT consultant has outlined what has generally come to be known as the 5P mantra for online security-Precaution, Prevention, Protection, Preservation and Perseverance.
Tough socioeconomic conditions create the right environment for cybercrime to thrive. When people are ideal and have no jobs, they are more likely to engage in risky-gainful ventures like cybercrime.
One solution then is to create jobs and opportunities for people, especially the youth, to enable them climb the social ladder through socially approved methods.
The human mind has unfathomable capacity.When it is not engaged in productive ventures, it has the capacity to wander and be created in undesired direction. Cybercrime could be minimized if the skills and talents of perpetrators arechanneled in the right direction.
There is the need to set up incubation centres where young men and women with brilliant ideas could develop a project and be paid. If the projects were patented and funded by international bodies including the UNESCO and World Bank, such youths who went into cyber fraud because of money could be helped to desist from those nefarious activities.
All the major law enforcement should establish cyber crime units. In addition to this, there is the need to establish cyber crime cells in selected places and equip the cells with the right training and technical tools to enable them fight cyber crime in a coordinated manner. For example, all of them could share a centralized database on cyber crime to enhance their work.
The need to mount a public education campaign geared toward educating the general population about cyber crime and its impact on society is desired. It is a well known fact that people in the hospitality industry, the postal services, and the money transfer organizations collaborate are more vulnerable to cybercrime than other industries. Public education should target those falling in the above business categories.
Cyber crime is a global challenge. Thus, international collaboration is needed to deal with the problem.
While these suggestions will not guarantee the elimination of cyber crime, it will go a long way to reduce its impact.
Dr. Osei K. Darkwa