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Is Cyber-Crime a New

Phenomenon?
Andy Taylor

Abstract: The crime of theft has been around for as long as man
has lived in communities. Cyber-crime is seen, though, as a new
crime being committed, whereas it is really the way the crime
is perpetrated that has changed. Those committing cyber-crime
are not the usual type of criminal and in a world where cyber-
security skills are desperately needed, perhaps we can punish the
cyber-criminal in a way that is of more use to society.

Keywords: Career development, criminals, criminal reform,


cyber-crime, cyber-criminals, cyber-security profession, educa-
tion system, philosophy, punishment

Introduction
While the obvious answer to the question posed above is
a clear and definitive yes, there is some merit in consid-
ering this issue in rather more detail. Firstly, the main
reason it is perceived almost universally as a new phe-
nomenon is because of the term cyber. This term has
come into common parlance in the last few years, with
other terms such as Internet-enabled, Internet-based,
and similar being used prior to that. The term cyber
has derived primarily from cyberneticsa term coined
Andy is an independent information in 1948 by a US mathematician Norbert Wiener and
security advisor and consultant, who
has worked in the field since the mid-
coming from the Greek kybernetes, meaning steersman
1980s. He has undertaken a variety of or governor.1 Cybernetics is mainly used to describe
security-related assignments during the automated control mechanisms that have become a
his career in the Royal Navy and major part of the fourth industrial revolution.
subsequently in his consultancy work.
Secondly, crime itself has been around more or less
for as long as there has been civilization on earth. While
this might be difficult to prove categorically, one crea-
ture stealing something from another is seen in the
more advanced animal kingdoms and so it is reasonably
safe to assume that early humans did it tooand that it
continues today.

1
Dictionary.com cyber, in Dictionary.com Unabridged. Source
location: Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/
browse/cyber. Available: http://www.dictionary.com/. Accessed:
July 5, 2017.

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Is Cyber-Crime a New Phenomenon?

Is it, therefore, fatuous to ask the above time to arrest Crippen before he disem-
question and is there any point in consider- barked from the ship. This was the first use
ing it? The proposal is, however, that while of the telegraph in criminal history.
the crime itself is not new, the way it is
perpetrated is, and this seems to give it a A Historical View
new lease of life and importancerightly Crimes committed in the past were usu-
or wrongly. It is also apparent that some ally related in some form to depriving
people do wrongly believe cyber-crime the lawful owner of something, or, in
to be a new form of crime. Indeed, it has other words, theft. In the dim and dis-
been suggested in some quarters that the tant past, this might have been the steal-
way to deal with the criminals carrying ing of food, animals, and perhaps hunting
out such cyber-crime should be different grounds. It is also highly likely that the
from the way in which other criminals are theft of information went on: where the
dealt with. best hunting grounds were, where there
was fresh water, the best source of berries,
What Is Cyber-Crime? and so on. This sort of information would
As has been said, cyber-crime is not new have been for the privileged, owned by
but it is clearly different in some way the e lders of tribes, passed down through
from the crimes of the past. The key dif- the generations by word of mouth or per-
ference is the way in which it is c arried haps in song.
out. In simple terms, cyber-crime is often As humans developed into a more
defined as criminal activity that involves civilized being, the crime of theft contin-
the Internet or other computer-based sys- ued, with the quantification of value b eing
tem, network, or facility.2 This definition added into the mix. If something was per-
immediately makes it clear that it is ceived to be of higher value, it was seen
the process used to commit the crime as the better item to steal. The chances
that is the cyber element and not the were that if a man stole another mans best
crime itself. cow, as distinct from just one of the herd,
The committing of crime, its detec- he would probably be seen as better, and
tion, and eventual resolution have been gain not only an extra cow but prestige and
facilitated by a number of technological
notoriety as well.
inventions over the years, one of the more As life rolled on through the centuries so
interesting crimes being the capture of a did the crime. The items stolen changed as
murderer by the UK authorities in 1910. This different things became more valuable and
was the capture of the American Dr.Crip- hence more worth stealing. The follow-on
pen who was later convicted of the murder activities, after the theft, also developed.
of his wife Cora. The ships C
aptain sent a Instead of stealing just to gain personal ben-
telegraph to the British authorities when efit, the concept of selling on and theft to
Crippen was identified traveling on a ship order became more common. It was prob-
from Europe to Canada, at that time still ably about this time that professional gangs
a British Dominion. A British p olice Chief of thieves became very common.
Inspector took a faster ship and arrived in The theft of identity is less easy to
track. Passport-type documents were first
2 introduced in the 1400s so it is perhaps not
Dictionary.com cybercrime, in Dictionary.com
Unabridged. Source location: Random House, unreasonable to assume that establishing
Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/cyber- ones identity was important then and has
crime. Available: http://www.dictionary.com/. only become more so. Perhaps the most sig-
Accessed: July 5, 2017. nificant issue in the early days of identity

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Is Cyber-Crime a New Phenomenon?

problems was actually being able to prove The Introduction of the Internet
conclusively who you were. Without iden- From its early beginnings, the main
tification cards, passports, or the like, it driving force behind the connectivity of

was very difficult to prove identity other computer systems has always been the

than taking one persons word for who facility of sharing information. Privacy and
they were. This gave rise to the documen- confidentiality were never really a major
tation with which we all are quite familiar consideration of Sir Tim Berners-Lee or

today. Stealing another persons identity any of those who joined him in the devel-
is, therefore, not a new phenomenon but opment of the Internet. This has therefore
the reasons and benefits of doing so have opened the way for the theft of informa-
become more significant in the last half
tion via the Internet. The motivations are
century or so. The advent of credit facili- many and varied but at the root of most is
ties for the general population has incen- finance. The prospect of gaining money
tivized thecriminal to acquire credit cards with the minimum of effort and, perhaps
and the like in the name of an unsuspect- more importantly, relatively little chance
ing victim and to take advantage of their of detection and being brought to justice is
credit facilities. The theft of identification just too great to be i gnored, not only by the
documentation, some of it very basic such organized criminal gangs, but also by the
as letters addressed to an individual, has youngster new to the world of crime.
now become commonplace and is per- It is now widely accepted that the crimi-
fectly adequate to establish an identity and nal world makes more money out of the
to use it for n efarious purposes. The theft trade in stolen information than they do
of online identities is also growing rapidly in the lucrative illegal drugs trade. This
and should be giving each and every one of is not surprising since huge amounts of
us cause for concern. information stored electronically can be sto-
A third major area of crime has been len, copied, shared, moved, and destroyed
the selling of fraudulent, illegal or non- in milliseconds. Compare this with the
existent goods. Examples range from the need to obtain paperwork physically, to
standard illegal drugs trade through to photocopy, or, before that, to transcribe the
the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme of the information by hand. The chances of b eing
early 1990s where intelligent people were caught are also very different. Skillful
duped into making bad investments. It thieves can download large quantities of
was possible to commit these crimes data without the rightful owner having any
owing to the trust people placed in other idea that it is going on, as the hack of Sony
individuals. The skilled fraudster would in 2014 showed. Sony only realized they
be able to convince people they met to had lost their data when the criminals told
do things which, when viewed in the cold themhardly an ideal situation.
light of day, were clearly foolish or illegal. Perhaps the more significant change in
Financial transactions of old usually left the criminal world though is the increase
trails and, where goods were involved, in those who fall into the illegal world of
these needed to be transported covertly information theft and misuse, through
as well as ensuring payment, often in their ability to attack software and all its
cash, was made to the supplier. Altogether vulnerabilities. In the past youngsters with
these frauds were not too easy to set up a desire to try a bit of criminality were
and usually required significant personal largely restricted to the opportunistic theft
investment in order to gain the necessary of sweets from the local shop, perhaps
credibility, reputation, and collateral for grabbing a ladys bag as she fumbled with
them to succeed. her shopping, or similar. The chances of

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