While the potential infringement on a persons rights may seem like something out of George Orwells 1984, we would do well to remember that sacrificing privacy and certain freedoms has become a norm in the 21st century. For better or worse, the Internet has largely grown beyond the anonymous free-for-all that was seen in its early years. Fears of terrorism, identity theft, predators on the Internet, and other criminal activity have brought about new laws, and it will take years to iron out the inconsistencies in courts, political debates, and public forums like the Internet. While cybercrime once sounded like the stuff of futuristic science fiction novels, law enforcement, computer professionals, and the general public have grown to recognize it as a contemporary problem.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center, and provides a way to report Internet crimes online. They began as the Internet Fraud Complain Center (IFCC), and during their first year of operation (May 2000 and May 2001), their Web site received 30,503 complaints of Internet fraud. Changing their name to reflect the broadened scope of Internet crimes, in June 2007, they received their one millionth complaint, with 461,096 of the cases reported to them being referred to federal, state and local law enforcement. Of this, these cases reflected an estimated loss of $647.1 million dollars, or a median loss of $270 per complainant. Annual reports reporting these figures can be found on the IC3 Web site (www.ic3.gov/media/annualreports.aspx)
In their 2007 Annual Report, the IC3 reported that the majority of cybercrime complaints (44.9%) involved cases of Internet auction fraud, where people would bid online for various items. Of these complaints 19% involved situations where people had paid for items but never received the merchandise, or where the merchandise had been sent to a bidder and payment was never received. (www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/internetschemes.htm)
According to the Computer Security Institutes Computer Crime and Security Survey for 2007, 494 computer security professionals in U.S. corporations, government agencies, universities, financial and medical institutions reported that fraud was the greatest source of financial losses, with losses resulting from virus attacks falling into second place for the first time in seven years. In addition to this, 29% of the organizations suffered a computer intrusion that they reported to law enforcement. (www.gocsi.com)
According to the Cybersnitch Voluntary Online Crime Reporting System, the most reported Internet-related crime is child pornography, with other crimes ranging from desktop forgery to such potentially violent crimes as electronic stalking and terrorist threats. (A full list of reported cybercrimes is available at www.cybersnitch.net/csinfo/csdatabase.asp.)
Charting the Online Population
While it is difficult to have an accurate total for the number of people using the Internet, the Web site www.internetworldstats.com estimates that by the end of 2007, there were 1,319,872,109 online. The CIA World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2153.html) reveals the increase in Internet users, showing that two years previous, there were only 1,018,057,389 people online. The CIA also provides a breakdown of users by country, showing that the European Union, United States and China have the largest number of Internet users in the world. As the global population becomes more and more connected, the opportunities for criminals to use the Net to violate the law will expand, and cybercrime will touch more and more lives.
Although almost anyone has the potential to be affected by cybercrime, two groups of people must deal with this phenomenon on an ongoing basis:
Information technology professionals, who are most often responsible for providing the first line of defense and for discovering cybercrime when it does occur
Law enforcement professionals, who are responsible for sorting through a bewildering array of legal, jurisdictional, and practical issues in their attempts to bring cybercriminals to justice
Although it is imperative to the success of any war against cybercrime that these two groups work together, often they are at odds, as neither has a real understanding of what the other does or of the scope of their own roles in the cybercrime-fighting process. Police may have misgivings about civilians being involved in an investigation, while private sector businesses may want to avoid bad publicity or the headache of being ensnared in legal processes. These and other issues hinder the efforts to catch and prosecute cybercriminals, and create an atmosphere where cybercrime can thrive.