Computer Crime Research Center


Cybercrime in France: An Overview

Date: December 07, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Mohamed Chawki


Though there can be many factors which affect the rise of cybercrime, some major environmental characteristics of Internet in France which affect the most are:

Firstly, the number of Internet users is increasing rapidly. In Feb. 2005, it was estimated that the number of Internet users was 25 millions, which is larger than 8, 500, 000 in 2000 , and is about 41.2 % of the whole population in France . Among those 25 millions of people, 7 millions are connected to a high-speed (broadband) Internet such as ADSL or cable modem which is 100 times faster than the ordinary dial-up modem, paying only 20 euros per month .

Secondly, there are about 236. 874 servers in France and many PC bangs (Internet cafés) around the country, which are equipped with broadband Internet connection. The fee for using Internet PCs in PC bangs is only 1 euro per hour. These PC bangs are used to attack computers, to defraud some, or to obtain the information that will allow the perpetrator to assume a victim’s identity and commit fraud on a grand scale.

Thirdly, cyber communities created on French forums are being abused by criminals as hotbeds for illegal activities, such as sales of illegally copied products, or sexually obscene materials. Those communities are also used as a place to exchange technologies and experiences concerning the modus operandi of cybercrime.

Finally, the development of multimedia network game industry affects the increase of cybercrime in France. As the Internet game industry prospers, many people are indulging themselves in variety of network games. Consequently, some of them are getting confused between “real life” and the “life in cyber space”. So, they want a higher level in cyberspace, which derive some crimes such as Internet fraud concerning game items and cyber money. For example, some people want to get power easily in virtual reality of online games, so they want to buy some items or weapons of those games even they have to pay so much money on those. Criminals abusing those psychological states of victims commit crimes concerning the online games.


2.1 Types of Cybercrime

There are several ways we can categorize the various cybercrimes. We can divide them into two very board categories: one, those crimes committed by violent or potentially violent criminals, and two, nonviolent crimes. Violent or potentially violent crimes that use computer networks are of highest priority for obvious reasons: these offenses pose a physical danger to some person or persons. Types of violent or potentially violent cybercrime include: Cyberterrorism; Assault by threat; Cyberstalking and Childporngraphy.

However, most cybercrimes are nonvioent offenses, due to the fact that a defining characteristic of the online world is the ability to interact without any physical contact. The perceived anonymity and “unreality” of virtual experiances are the elements that make cyberspace such an attractive “place” to commit crimes. Nonviolent cybercrimes can be further divided into several subscategories: Cybertrespass; Cybertheft; Cyberfraud; Destructive cybercrimes and Other cybercrimes.

2.2 Cybercrime Offences in 2004
According to the Office Central de Lutte contre la Criminalité liée aux
Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (O.C.L.C.T.I.C.).
Published in Rapport Senat n° 321:

Year 2004
Total 59.964 offences
Illegal fabrication of credit cards: 49.914 offences
Ilegal use of credit card numbers online: 8.470 offences.
Online pornography: 576 offences.
Defamation and Sexual Assault: 333 offences.
Cybertrespass: 285 offences.
Software Piracy: 268 offences.
Others: 118 offences.

As it has been mentioned before, the rapid development of Internet
infrastructure and other factors such as popularity of PC bangs, Internet communities and growth of game industry can be regarded as the main reasons for that increase. In addition, the foundation of L’Office Central de Lutte contre la Criminalité liée aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (O.C.L.C.T.I.C.) can be one of the reasons. In other words, victims know where to report their damages more clearly than before the foundation, and the fact that the more aggressive measures to the cyber crimes have been brought could be one of the factors which can explain the rapid increase in this crime.

2.3 Cybercrime Case Law

2.3.1 Cyberfraud

Serge Humpich, the 36 year-old engineer who discovered flaws in the chip-based security of French credit cards, was sentenced in Feb. 2000 (GCB v. Humpich) in Paris . Under the ruling issued by the 13th correctional chamber, he was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of 10 months, 12.000 francs (approx. £1.200) in fines, and one symbolic franc in damages to the Groupement des Cartes Bancaires . His computer equipment has been seized, as well as the document that he had filed with the INPI (France’s patents and trademarks office), detailing his findings. Humpich began studying credit card security four years ago. When he discovered significant flaws in the authentication system, he contacted the Groupement des Cartes Bancaires, through lawyers, to negotiate a “technology transfer” of his discovery, for an undisclosed amount (estimates of up to £20M were never confirmed by either party). During Court hearings held on January 21 it was revealed that Humpich had committed only one fraud (when he bought metro tickets using cards he made), performed at the instigation of the GCB, and using the blank cards that it had supplied. Little did he know that the GCB had already contacted the authorities, and that his phone was tapped. Humpich was later arrested, his equipment seized, and his house (as well as his lawyer’s offices) raided by police.

2.3.2 Trade Marks

In October 2003, a French court has ruled against Google France in an intellectual property dispute (Sté Viaticum et Sté Luteciel v. Sté Google France) saying the company must pay a fine for allowing advertisers to tie their text notices to trademarked search terms .

The Lower Court of Nanterre required Google France to pay 70.000 euros (about $81.400) to two companies that owned the rights to certain words. Google France sold the use of these words to advertisers through its AdWords program. AdWords permits individuals and companies to place advertisements on the Google home page that appear when a specific search term is used. A spokesman for Google said Wednesday that the company would appeal. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we cannot provide further comment,” spokesman David Krane said. Travel agencies Luteciel and Viaticum sued Google in December 2002, after the search company refused to curb the use of disputed words in the AdWords program. Luteciel and Viaticum claimed intellectual property rights in “bourse des vols” and “ bourse des voyages,” which roughly translate to travel market and airflight market. The French court concluded that Google France violated the country’s intellectual property code that, translated, “prohibits, in the absence of authorization of its owner, the use of a trademark for products or services identical to those indicated in the recording.”

The judgement of October 2003 was upheld by Versailles court of appeal in 10 March 2004. Google was ordered to pay US$103,000 in damages to the French travel companies Luteciel and Viaticum. Users who searched on Google using these companies’marks as key words were also provided with links to competitor companies’websites. The court found that Google should have prevented its clients from using key words which infringed trademarks.

2.3.3 Software Piracy

In Feb. 2005, a French teacher was fined €10.200 ($13.300) in France’s first major illegal file-sharing prosecution ( France Bater v. Alain Oddoz) . Alain Oddoz, 28 years old was arrested on 18 August 2004 following an investigation into music-sharing information site France Barter by French law enforcement agencies. The teacher, one of 302 regular users of the site, was accused of sharing 30GB of music files. The teacher paid €3.000, with the rest deferred to a later date. The fine could have been much worse. Music industry representatives had asked the Pontoise court to impose a €28.366 fine. In recent months European music industry trade bodies have actively pursued file-sharers through the courts, albeit with a lower profile than the Recording Industry Ass. of America’s highly publicised anti-P2P lawsuits.

However, in March 2005, the Montpellier Court of Appeal has released in (Ministère Public, FNDF, SEV, Twientieth Century Fox et a. v/ Aurélien D) an individual from prison who was sued for copying almost 500 movies on the Internet, burning them and sharing them with friends. The decision was based on Article L-122-5 of the French Intellectual Property Code which states that "authors can’t forbid copies or reproductions that are only intended for the private use of the copyist." Although this decision seems to provide the impression that private use may be a defense against a claim of online copyright infringement, there are still approximately 50 similar criminal cases pending, and in the past, infringers have been sentenced.

2.3.4 Malicious Code
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