In the wake of Gmail cyber attacks by Chinese hackers, the prevalence of cybercrime has been thrust into the international spotlight. The question should be, though, why wasn’t it a hot topic before?
Cybercrime encompasses any sort of crime having to do with computers. Vague, right?
Symantec defines cybercrime as, “[A]ny crime that is committed using a computer or network, or hardware device. The computer or device may be the agent of the crime, the facilitator of the crime, or the target of the crime. The crime may take place on the computer alone or in addition to other locations. The broad range of cybercrime can be better understood by dividing it into two overall categories.”
In brief, the two categories are thus:
Type I includes attacks aided by viruses, rootkits, Trojans, and keyloggers, as well as phishing, hacking, and fraud.
Type II is more personal; for instance, criminals might attempt to reach out to victims online through chat rooms or messaging services. Cyberbullying and extortion would fall under the latter’s umbrella because of the relationship established.
Yet, despite the ubiquity of cybercrime (Defense Secretary Robert Gates: The United States is “under cyberattack virtually all the time”), the topic is covered in shades of gray. Legal recourse is not yet consistent, the statistics are largely incomplete, and it’s often tough to pinpoint the hackers in the first place.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the issue of internet freedom on January 21, 2010, quoted here in part:
“We have every reason to be hopeful about what people can accomplish when they leverage communication networks and connection technologies to achieve progress. But some will use global information networks for darker purposes. Violent extremists, criminal cartels, sexual predators, and authoritarian governments all seek to exploit global networks…As we work to advance these freedoms, we must also work against those who use communication networks as tools of disruption and fear.
Governments and citizens must have confidence that the networks at the core of their national security and economic prosperity are safe and resilient. This is about more than petty hackers who deface websites.
Our ability to bank online, use electronic commerce, and safeguard billions of dollars in intellectual property are all at stake if we cannot rely on the security of information networks.
Disruptions in these systems demand a coordinated response by governments, the private sector, and the international community. We need more tools to help law enforcement agencies cooperate across jurisdictions when criminal hackers and organized crime syndicates attack networks for financial gain. The same is true when social ills such as child pornography and the exploitation of trafficked women and girls migrate online…
States, terrorists, and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks. Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society, or any other, pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society. Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation’s networks can be an attack on all. By reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons.”
Read the full text of Clinton’s speech here. What do you think of her call to action? Have recent events made you more aware of cybercrime, and what have you done to protect yourself, your computer, and your identity?
SFGate, “Google needs help against online attackers” (Defense Sec quote) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/24/INJB1BJVGU.DTL
Symantec, “What is Cybercrime?” http://www.symantec.com/norton/cybercrime/definition.jsp