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Essay Writing Competition: Ad Idem 2014- Aniket Aggarwal

Emerging Trends in Cyber Crime

The purpose of this essay is to describe what cybercrime is, and what the emerging trends are in this
area of criminal activity. This essay tries to define what cybercrime is, what its scope is, its variants,
the emerging trends in it and the major legislations that have been passed and adopted by various
international organizations. The internet is a worldwide network of connected computer systems and
cybercrime generally means offences committed in this same network in the form of data theft,
corporate and governmental espionage, fraud, phishing, etc. However, the definition and kinds of
cybercrime are dynamic and constantly altering. The authorities too, need to conform to such
dynamicity in order to safeguard the cyberworld from malicious activity.
Today, it is beyond doubt that internet is by far the most effective, reliable and fast method of
communication between various defined or undefined variants of hosts and recipients. With over 3
billion pinned internet users, it is fair to say that every second person on this planet is wired on to this
mega-web of information exchange. The consistency, accessibility and popularity which are
synonymous with the internet have been primarily instrumental in transforming an evolutionary
planet into a well-connected global village. However, like every underlying principle of Mother
Nature, it is fair to say that this convenience comes at a cost. Perhaps, a cost which today has
polluted the web-space like a saline fish pollutes a lake.
Cybercrime, a technical insight:
Like every other form of crime, cybercrime too, is essentially an intentional violation of the legal
code that is punishable under the ambit of law in a particular state. Central to this definition is the
premise that crime occurs within the boundaries of some physical reference point, that is, a location
that constitutes a specific jurisdiction. However, this premise is confounded when cybercrime is
committed because the location is no longer a static concept. With the advent of cyberspace,
jurisdiction has become much more problematic, transcending local, state, national and even
international boundaries. Under modern day surveillance technologies, fraud, technology theft,
identity theft, security breaches, child pornography and even stalking, potentially fall under the realm
of cyber-criminality. For instance, in the United States, a code of conduct has been proscribed
related to the use of computers in criminal behaviour, including conduct relating to the obtaining and
communicating of restricted information; the unauthorized accessing of information from financial
institutions, the United States government, and protected computers; the unauthorized accessing of
a government computer; fraud; the damaging of a protected computer resulting in certain types of
specified harm; trafficking in passwords; and extortionate threats to cause damage to a protected
Variants of Cybercrime:
Despite the specific identification of offenses, the legal definition of cybercrime tends to read like a
grocery list and fails to anticipate future criminal variations in cyber offending.
In fact, another confounding issue in defining cybercrime has to do with the constantly changing
landscape for computer-related crime.

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A constructed typology of computer-related crime, which provides a more comprehensive framework

for the scope of criminal activities involved in cybercrime would identify six offense categories and
the current kinds of cybercrime that tend to fall in these categories:

Interference with lawful use of a computer- which includes crimes such as cyber-vandalism,
cyber-terrorism, and spread of malicious codes.
Dissemination of offensive material- which includes child pornography, other forms of
pornographic material, racist/hate messages, online gambling and treasonous content.
Threatening communication- which includes extortion and cyber-stalking.
Forgery and counterfeiting- which identity theft, phishing, IP offenses and various kinds of
software piracy.
Fraud- which includes credit card fraud, e-funds transfer fraud, theft on the internet or
telephone services, and online securities fraud.
Miscellaneous cybercrimes encompassing communication interception, illegal commercial
and corporate espionage, and electronic money laundering.

Emerging Trends in Cybercrime:

The dynamicity of the cyberspace was underestimated by those who categorized cybercrime, as its
constantly-moving nature became evident once again, with the advent of the following, newer trends
in the realm of cybercrime:

Switching of platform- Cybercrime switched its targeted domain from Personal Computer
systems to platforms such as smartphones and tablet computers. Desktop systems now have
higher security levels with rapid updates, patches, user alerts and a plethora of anti-virus
software. Besides, global mobile devices penetration accessing the internet having surpassed
the billion mark, has created myriads of opportunities for cybercrime. Trojan1 viruses such as
Zeus also have been adapted for the mobile platform, which is testament to the emergence
of this new trend of targeting mobile devices. SMS phishing is another mode cyber criminals
use to exploit mobile devices, which is designed to defeat the SMS based authentication used
by banks to confirm fund transfers.
Social engineering scams- These are non-technical kind of intrusions in the form of emails or
chats on social media that rely heavily on human interface and involve hoodwinking wouldbe sufferers into downloading malware or disclosing personal information. Such a method
comes useful, as it proves effective in attacking even highly secure PC systems with the
exploitation of the human element of trust in social networking. Spammers take advantage of
this trust by spoofing messages and persuading unsuspecting contacts to click on malicious
links in emails.
Highly targeted- The newest twist in hypertargeting2 is malware meant to disrupt industrial
setups. Such malware generally tend to identify and exploit zero-day vulnerabilities3 in

1 A Trojan is a type of malware program containing malicious code that when executed, typically causes loss
of data or system harm.
2 Hypertargeting refers to the ability to deliver advertising content to specific segments in a network, based
on their interests.
3 A zero-day attack is one that exploits a previously unknown vulnerability in a computer application that the
developers have not addressed and patched.
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commercial enterprises. The first known copy of such a worm was discovered in Germany
and consequent alternates led to a widespread global outbreak.4
Intellectual property theft- According to estimations, greater than 90% of software, DVDs,
CDs and similar items are counterfeit in nature. It is also projected that the total global trade
in counterfeits and forgeries is above of $600 billion- which amounts to Rs. 36 lakh crores- a
year. Intellectual property theft costs enterprises gigantic amounts of money and hundreds of
thousands of jobs.5

Major International Legislations against Cybercrime:

In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution dealing with digital crime
legislation. In 2000, the UNGA adopted a resolution on combating criminal misappropriation of
information technology. In 2002, another resolution similar to the one in 2000 was adopted.6
1997 saw the Group of 8 (G8) release a communique that includes action campaigns to battle
cybercrime and safeguard data and systems from unauthorized impairment. It also mandated the
training and equipping of all personnel to address the bottleneck of cybercrime.
In 2001, the Convention on Cybercrime, the first international convention directed at Internet
criminal behaviours, was co-drafted by the Council of Europe with the supplement of USA, Canada
and Japan, and signed by its 46 member states, although ratified by only 25 of them. It targets at
providing the foundation of an effective legal framework for combating cybercriminal activity
through harmonization of cybercriminal offences qualification, provision for laws empowering law
enforcement and enabling international collaboration.7
In 2002, the Commonwealth of Nations advocated an ideal law on cybercrime that provides a legal
framework within the Commonwealth and facilitates international cooperation. This model law was
intentionally drafted in accordance with the Convention on Cybercrime.8
The internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesnt understand, the largest
experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.
The truth in these words spoken by Google Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt is becoming slowly
and painfully apparent as the scope of cybercrime continues to expand and diversify, while the
lawlessness that typically features in an anarchy incessantly pervades the demesne of cyberspace.

4 Annual Security Report, Cisco, 2010.

5 Sean B. Hoar, International Trends in Cyber Law Enforcement: The Dark Side of the Internet, International
Security National Resilience Conference, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2010.
6 Dr. Marco Gercke, Regional and International Trends in Information Society Issues, Cybercrime Research
Institute, 2010.
7 Convention on Cybercrime, Budapest, 2001.
8 Understanding Cybercrime: A Guide for Developing Countries, ITU Telecommunication Development
Sector, 2009.
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