Asking you to think back, do you remember before you were able to watch a video an advert would remind you about film piracy? They asked, “would you steal a car or handbag?” and then equated this crime to illegal downloading and thus stealing a film. The premise being if you downloaded the film rather than purchased it or viewed it in a cinema it was the same as theft.

Have you ever been a victim of crime? The connotations of the word crime are drastically and rapidly evolving by removing the human element. Crime no longer exists solely in the physical manner of stealing a car or a handbag. In a similar way to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, crime can now occur online and it is becoming a critical concern for all commercial organisations, families and for the everyday individual. Celebrities are also not immune and high profile court cases are propelling a new spotlight on cybercrime, such as Ryan Collins’s 18-month sentence for hacking online accounts of Jennifer Lawrence. Collins entered a guilty plea in connection with hacking, and admitted to a “phishing” scheme to obtain passwords, in order to obtain nude photographs from the victims’ cloud storage accounts. Law firms are not immune, the “Panama Papers” leak which saw the release of 11.5million confidential documents and 2.6terabytes of data from Mossack Fonseca (bigger than Wikileaks and Snowdon disclosures combined).

Cybercrime can assist criminals in historical crimes existing before the internet such as fraud; however, it has also opened up a Pandora’s box of new geographically borderless crimes solely brought about through the existence of the internet. In the same way as new crimes have been unleashed, similarly new types of criminals have appeared. The National Crime Agency (“NCA”) has detailed many of those charged with cybercrime are teenagers; the internet has born a new type of criminal. The NCA reported a large proportion of offenders begin to participate in gaming cheat websites and game modification forums before progressing to criminal hacking forums as a means to showcase their technical prowess and knowledge. It will be interesting to see long-term what the effects of technology on the younger generations will be and whether a link between growing up with easily accessible technology can be correlated to the growth in cybercrime. Teenagers can now access new friends and girlfriends or boyfriends via a screen, existing outside their ‘real-world’. The line between what is right and wrong can begin to seem muddled. If you are used to playing on games and launching cyber attacks in a gaming community is there much of a step to doing something similar at school, work, against an individual or company you dislike? If a child has a computer in their room, they no longer have to even leave the comfort of their home to commit a crime.

There is little part of our daily lives now where we do not rely on the internet. Just this morning, how many of you checked the internet or apps for travel, email, shopping, banking or dating?

In a world where businesses store confidential and client sensitive information on computers or within cloud based storage systems and individuals rely more and more on mobile phones for storing credit card and bank account details. It was only a matter of time until criminals recognised the ease of access to photos, documents, trade secrets and passwords (literally at the end of their fingertips).

Cybercrime presents legal challenges

  1. There are numerous legal challenges posed by cybercrime such as, who is to blame? Beyond the initial person accessing this information, should we be looking at those storing information, processing information or third parties benefiting from this information or even beyond that? This leads to the question of monitoring cybercrime and cybercrime responsibility; should Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) be doing more to screen for cybercrime and thus adding a protective layer for the end user? TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC suffered a £400,000 fine by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2016 after a cyber attacker gained access to customer data “with ease” in 2016. Therefore, businesses suffer not only the initial loss of information, but additionally the reputational damage and penalties as a consequence.
  2. The pace of cybercrime’s evolution and the need for legislation to be brought up to speed with the internet poses a further difficulty. Cybercrime like many other crimes can vary from small-scale to catastrophic ramifications and the legislation needs to consider voluminous factors. Many of the Acts in place today are only partly relevant to the ever-changing nature of cybercrimes. The passing of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (especially important sections are 41 to 44), which updates and amends the Computer Misuse Act 1990 ensuring harsher penalties for cybercriminals. Constant evolution such as wearable technology pose new threats- undermining even the wider drafted clauses – both the law and its enforcers struggle to grapple with tackling cybercrime consistently and effectively because of its very changeable nature.
  3. Punishment of cybercrime stumbles at a seemingly simple first hurdle, the identification of a criminal due to the often anonymous nature of the crime. The location and identity of cyber criminals are difficult to locate due to virtual currencies and encryption of data, such as those who operate in the billion-dollar ‘dark net’ drug crime network called Silk Road. In contrast to the open web pages on the ‘dark net’ cannot be searched for using popular search engines.

Asking you to think forward, it is time to get cyber savvy. The law now has to become educative from the grass roots levels and proactive rather than reactive to cybercrime. Collaboration and education from school age are now key components to combatting modern day cybercrime.



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