Computer Crime Research Center


Criminalization of computer wrongdoing prerequisite for combating computer crime

Date: April 25, 2005

Crime had grown so fast in the “bottomless world of cyberspace” that legal and law enforcement bodies should “step up to the plate”, the keynote speaker of a workshop on measures to combat computer-related crime told the Second Committee of the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice this afternoon.

i-Newswire, 2005-04-23 - Kraisorn Pornsutee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Thailand, went on to say that a prerequisite for combating computer-related crimes was to criminalize acts of computer wrongdoing. Attitudes, however, varied greatly from country to country as to what constituted a nuisance and what was a crime. The next crucial element of any international effort against cybercrime was to facilitate technology transfer and engage in capacity-building. Legal and technology experts needed to cooperate closely without any barriers whatsoever. The digital divide between the legal and technical matters needed to be closed at the national, regional and global levels to effectively put up a fight against what was essentially a global crime wave.

Panellists this afternoon addressed matters of the evolving nature of computer-related crimes, the digital divide, technical assistance, cooperation with the private sector and the harmonization of law. A number of case studies in international cooperation were also presented.

One of the panellists, Professor Peter Grabosky of the AustralianNationalUniversity, said digital technologies now provided ordinary citizens with the capacity to inflict massive harm. He described three trends in computer crime: sophistication, commercialization and integration. Sophistication meant the greater skill and capacity that criminals brought today. Crime followed opportunity, and development would attract new crime. One such area was wireless networks. Regarding commercialization, he said hackers now offered their services on a fee-for-service basis, in other words, “hackers for hire”. Integration meant the combination of different criminal acts in furtherance of the same criminal enterprise.

He said that, as of now, there had not been any catastrophic successes in the area of cyber terrorism -- attacks against computers and networks to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives. For the time being, terrorists preferred truck bombs to logic bombs. The Internet was an ideal medium for propaganda, however, and digital technology was ideal for psychological warfare. In order to control cybercrime, it was important to strive for harmonization in criminal law to develop a seamless mutual assistance framework. Technology would continue to grow and, as it did, new criminal opportunities would be created. Those who failed to anticipate the future were in for a huge shock when it arrived.

Gareth Sansom, Director, Technology and Analysis, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice, Canada, addressing the subject of the “digital divide”, said there had been progress over the past decade, and the gap was gradually closing. All things being equal, however, it would take decades for countries at the bottom of the divide to reach the status of the countries in the middle. There were distinct patterns of vulnerability for cybercrime. Countries at the lower end of the digital divide were used as staging grounds to launch attacks.

Amanda Hubbard, Trial Attorney, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Department of Justice, United States, provided a case study in which speedy cooperation was required regarding a kidnapping case in South Africa in order to track down the perpetrator who was using an e-mail address. Thanks to innovative technical assistance at the Internet service provider, the kidnappers were apprehended and the victim was freed. Cyberspace moved much faster than human beings, she said. Speed was key when saving property or lives. Other important lessons included not neglecting traditional law enforcement techniques; building relationships between police forces, prosecutors and judges; and cooperating with the private sector.

Ioana Albani, Chief, Prosecutor’s General Office Attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, Romania, described the evolution in Romanian law regarding cybercrime. She said there were difficulties in finding the right jurisdiction, for instance the place where the crime was committed ( Romania ) and the place where the crime produced its results ( at that time almost always in the United States ). She stressed that Romania, even without the necessary resources, had answered and was still answering international requests for legal assistance.

Hamish McCulloch, Assistant Director, Interpol General Secretariat, explained how the Interpol child abuse image database was used to identify the victims and perpetrators of child pornography. He provided examples of several cases in which the use of the database had resulted in the identification of children and conviction of the offender. While it was not an offence in many countries to possess images of child abuse, it was, however, an offence to abuse a child. Investigations focused on the prosecution of distributors of images. Law enforcement needed to shift its focus to the identification of victims.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, representatives explained how their own countries dealt with computer-related crimes and the difficulties encountered therein. They stressed the importance not only of international cooperation but also of training of law enforcement personnel, judges, prosecutors and lawyers in the complex issue of cybercrime. They asked how training could be best provided, and how Interpol and the United Nations, in particular the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime could be helpful in that regard.

Participating in the discussion were the representatives of Ukraine, Austria, Libya, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada, Morocco and Chile.

Individual experts Christopher Ram and Ehab Elsonbaty also spoke, as did representatives of Microsoft and the World Federation of Scientists.

The workshop was organized by the Korean Institute of Criminology, whose President, Taehoon Lee also addressed the Second Committee.


Committee II of the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held a workshop this afternoon on the theme “Measures to combat computer-related crimes”.

A background paper ( document A/CONF.203/14 ) highlights the challenges posed by computer-related crimes, or “cybercrime”, and contains a number of recommendations. According to the paper, the worldwide proliferation of new information and communication technologies has given rise to more forms of computer-related crime, which pose threats not only to the confidentiality, integrity or availability of computer systems, but also to the security of critical infrastructure. Technological innovation gives rise to distinct patters of criminal innovation. Different threats from computer-related crimes mirror, therefore, differences across the spectrum of the so-called “digital divide”.

When combating such crimes, a number of forensic problems challenge investigators, prosecutors and judges. Effective investigation and prosecution of computer-related crime often require tracing criminal activity through a variety of Internet service providers or companies, sometimes across national borders, which may result in difficult questions of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Computer-related crime, therefore, necessitates international cooperation, which requires countries to be equipped with the necessary legal, procedural and regulatory tools. A number of regional and interregional efforts have been undertaken in recent years, leading to several significant accomplishments. In order to bring those efforts to fruition, it is necessary to support a wide range of research on the various aspects involved in combating computer-related crime to foster an active partnership between government and the private sector.

The four regional preparatory meetings for the Congress proposed a number of recommendations, including: to examine current experience and existing national legal frameworks and arrangements for cooperation between States, as well as between States and Internet providers; to examine ways to promote cooperation between governments and the private sector; to explore ways of enhancing the capacity of governments to develop special investigative techniques; to deal with the use of computer technology in exploiting women and children, especially pornography and paedophilia; to examine the feasibility of establishing a global Internet task force; and to consider proposing the negotiation of a new convention against computer-related crime.

Computer-related crime includes theft of telecommunications services or computer services by using hacking techniques. Servers and websites could be targets of denial-of-service attacks, viruses and worms. Computers were also used as instruments to commit crime, such as modification of data, electronic vandalism, forgery and counterfeiting, information piracy, industrial espionage and copyright infringement. There were many types of computer-related crime involving attacks on banks or financial systems, as well as fraud involving transfer of electronic funds. Other problems involve telemarketing and “phishing” or spoofing spam. Existing offences such as extortion and harassment are also carried out...

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