These days, bank robbers are no longer cloaked in the guise of Bonnie & Clyde, traipsing through bank vaults with machine guns. Bank robbers are faceless, stealthy criminals spread around the world accessing bank accounts through the web and siphoning funds into offshore accounts. The amount of cybercrime that goes unreported is astonishing; some reports place the number of reported crimes at less than 50%. Overall, cybercriminals make exponentially more than traditional bank robbers and there are a few theories as to why.
One idea claims that the personal risk involved is diminished, causing criminals to be much more brazen with their targets. Other theories site the arrest rates for cybercriminals being far below normal street crime rates. Another contributing factor has to do with a large number of cyber attacks coming from countries where the US has no jurisdiction, meaning even if the criminals were tracked down, they could not be prosecuted. There is also an element of anonymity that comes with cybercrime. The victims are nameless and the crimes are far from violent overthrows that may endanger innocent bystanders.
Of the bank robberies in the US in 2009, more than twice as much money was taken via cybercrime by unknown criminals. Although the FBI is taking great pains to combat cybercrime and President Obama has publicly declared the need for more reinforcements on the cyber battlefield, one in five online consumers have been victims of cybercrime according to the annual “State of the Net” survey published in 2009. This amounts to upwards of $8 billion that has been lost due to computer viruses, phishing, and identity theft. The question is: how aware is the average consumer? Most large scale cybercrimes aren’t reported with the same gusto (when reported on at all) that violent crimes and crimes with a physical component are. Should there be a difference between drilling through a vault door (which would most certainly make the local news) and hacking into a secure database and stealing bank account numbers and passwords?
As the internet grows and further infiltrates our daily life, are we doing everything we can to protect our information? Individually, there is only so much that can be done. When hackers gain access to private records and begin selling off information, how much responsibility falls on the victim?