CRJU145-Justice Information Systems

Week 4 Lecture

Cyber Crime and Technology

Cyber crime is a new breed of offenses that involves the theft and/or destruction of information, resources, or funds by utilizing computers, computer networks, and the Internet. Computer based technology allows criminals to operate more efficiently and effectively. It presents a challenge for the justice system because cyber crime's rapid evolution is difficult to detect through traditional law enforcement channels. Cyber crime has grown as information technology (IT) has evolved and become part of daily life in most industrialized societies. Some of the many types of cyber crime are:

  • Cyber theft
  • Cyber vandalism
  • Cyber terrorism
  • Identity theft

The Internet has become an important mechanism for committing cyber crime. The IT revolution has revitalized the porn industry, has resulted in extortion attempts via denial of service attacks, has allowed for illegal copyright infringement, and has provided new mechanisms for engaging in securities fraud. Incidents of identity theft have increased in the United States and can destroy people's lives.

Phishing is a scam making use of email or websites to steal personal and financial information and has contributed to the frequency of identity theft. Phishers have become increasing sophisticated making it difficult to discern legitimate email and website content from illegitimate. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act made identity theft a federal crime. In 2004, the Identity Theft Enhancement Act increased the prison terms of convicted offenders by two years and those offenders convicted of identity theft associated with terrorism by five years.

Some cyber criminals are motivated more by revenge or malice than greed. Such cyber criminals engage in various forms of cyber vandalism.

Cyber vandalism involves malicious intent and ranges from sending destructive viruses and worms to hacker attacks designed to destroy important computer networks via Trojan horses, logic bombs, and spam. Web defacement is another type of cyber vandalism.

Cyber stalking refers to the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communication devices to stalk another person. Some stalkers pursue minors through online chat rooms while others harass their victims electronically.

Cyber spying involves illegally using the Internet to gather information that is considered private and confidential. Cyber spying may be committed by disgruntled individuals or by commercial businesses, including foreign competitors. Cyber espionage is cyber spying by intelligence agencies.

Cyber terrorism can be viewed as an effort by covert forces to disrupt the intersection where the virtual electronic reality of computers meets with the physical world. Infrastructure at risk of cyber terrorism includes oil refineries and nuclear power plants. Some experts question the existence of cyber terrorism, claiming that not a single case of cyber terrorism has yet been recorded, that cyber vandals and hackers are regularly mistaken for terrorists, and that cyber defenses are more robust than is commonly supposed. Aside from these criticisms, it is concluded the threat of cyber terrorism exists.

Like IT, the enforcement of cyber crime is evolving. Since 1984, Congress has treated computer related crime as a distinct federal offense and new legislation has been drafted to protect the public from cyber crime. Identity theft became a crime 1998 and, today, all states except Vermont and the District of Columbia, have passed laws against identity theft. After the attacks of 9/11, the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act was amended by sections of the USA Patriot Act, making it easier to enforce crimes by terrorists against the nation's computer systems. Federal and state law enforcement agencies have created working groups that coordinate activities of numerous agencies involved in investigating cyber crime. Local police departments have created specialized units to deal with specific types of cyber crime, such as Internet child pornography.

Criminal justice agencies are using IT to increase their effectiveness with such methods as data mining, crime mapping, and computer aided identification of suspects. Biometrics (automated methods of recognizing an individual based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic) is also being used for identification and security by law enforcement. The courts have applied communications and IT technology in such areas as video-taped testimonies, closed-circuit arraignments, court reporting devices, information systems, and data processing systems to handle court dockets and jury management. IT has also influenced the corrections field. States have used IT to locate inmates, and corrections departments are using the Internet to monitor offenders in the community. Prisons are making use of IT to maintain security.

Though IT techniques provide the opportunity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency within justice agencies, critics are concerned that IT can compromise the privacy and liberty of U.S. citizens who have not engaged in criminal activity. The level of intrusion and surveillance citizens will tolerate may depend on the risks they perceive.

Controlling Cyber Crime

New Legislation

Identity Theft and Assumption Act of 1998: most states have passed similar legislation.

Sections of the USA Patriot Act: example: Subsection 1030(a)(5)(A)(i) of the act criminalizes knowingly causing the transmission of a program, code, or command, and as a result, intentionally causing damage to a protected computer.

Cyber Crime Enforcement Agencies

Interagency Telemarketing and Internet Fraud Working Group

Representatives from:

  • U.S. attorneys' offices
  • The FBI
  • The Secret Service
  • The Postal Inspection Service
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission

Specialized enforcement agencies have been created:

  • The Internet Fraud Complaint Center
  • The New York Electronic Crimes Task Force (NYECTF)

Local Enforcement Efforts

Local police departments are now creating special units. Example: Targeting child exploitation.

Supplemental Resoruces

To use some of these supplemental resources, you must click the downloadable PDF links below.

Security, Cybercrime, and Scale.

By: HERLEY, CORMAC. Communications of the ACM. Sep2014, Vol. 57 Issue 9, p64-71. 8p. 1 Color Photograph, 2 Diagrams, 1 Graph. DOI: 10.1145/2654847. , Database: Business Source Complete


Pattavina. (2005). Information technology and the criminal justice system. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. Chpt 4 p. 77-98

Herley, C. (2014). Security, Cybercrime, and Scale Communication of the ACM. Sep 2014, 57(9) p. 64-71 DOI: 10.1145/2654847., Database Business Source Complete

Higgins, G. E. (2010) Cybercrime: An Introduction to an Emerging Phenomenon Boston McGraw-Hill, Chpt 2, 4, 6, & 7