EDITORIAL: I believe one of the most important topics in the world right now is cyber-crime. Anonymous and the Dot.com raid brought the reality of the vast span that cyber-crime reaches with their regularly scheduled invasions into our government and financial systems. The fact that they could disable our entire power grid is, in and of itself, an alarming thought for the average citizen. We have to do a better job to fight these crimes aggressively or face the possibility that the techie criminals could shut us off and we would be instantly hurled back into the 19th century.
How would the average citizen react if the World’s electricity were to be instantly shut down and we lost all sources of communication? The results of the entire World’s panic would become catastrophic within a few days if not within hours.
The term cyber-crime is really a slang term for crimes committed by electronic means. When law enforcement and other public leaders are working to understand and cope with cyber-crime, they should keep in mind that it’s the underlying damage done to the victim or victims, property or society as a whole that should determine the seriousness of the crime just as you would in a simple or aggravated assault case. While cyber-crime may not happen in the presence of each other, the assault by the criminal and the damages to the victim or victims are unmistakable. Comparable treatment would be liken to burglary which is highly invasive and personal though you may never know who was inside your home or office. If you drop the cyber and look at the crime, most investigators will find cyber-crime easy to identify, investigate and gather evidence for.
Learning how to think like the cyber-criminal so you can beat them at their own game should be the primary focus of any cyber-crime task force. Resources that should be mandatory are advanced training, computer equipment, networks and software programs so that agents have the proper tools to fight this battle effectively. We also need to recruit and maintain a staff of advanced computer technicians in every major metropolitan area so that these crimes can be more readily identified, investigated and prosecuted. We need advanced technological training for all judicial staff to include prosecutors and judges. Let’s face it, if they don’t win the cases and punish the criminals, it’s a waste of resources for us all!
While all that is looming over our heads, we deal with the more personal effects of cyber-crime on a daily basis with a Wild, Wild West type mentality. Those who once used their creativity and talent to build the World Wide Web and bring it into our homes for personal use and to expand our country’s intellectual capacities now hold us hostage with that same system as they use it to control and alter our society in some very negative and damaging ways. In fact, in my opinion, they are dumbing down our society so they can more easily exploit them!
Never before in history has there been such an influx of information so that our society has become overly saturated and are showing signs of extreme information overload. Masses of young people are short circuiting through addictions of all types as we watch our country taken over by extreme sex, drugs and entertainment which are all pushed over the Internet and televisions to our youth through Reality Shows and pornography.
Much of what they do with these extreme shows is about inciting and instigating the participants into outrageous and often illegal sexual and/or violent behavior which they then video tape and publish publicly as mainstream entertainment. Not only does this addictive programming work to wear away every society’s value systems, it greatly devalues the human beings themselves as they are pitted against each other for sport, much like the Roman days of the coliseum and gladiator except, because of our advanced technology, the arena to watch the folly of human degradation and abuse is now the computer and television. It’s got a worldwide viewing audience, the largest viewing arena of its’ kind.
The United States isn’t the only country suffering from the negative effects of cyber-crime. We watch as other countries struggle with hackers, pedophiles and predators just as we do. We also see that other countries are harboring and supporting cyber criminals as organized crime gets tech savvy so the mob moves into play. Just imagine the Sopranos geek style. That’s the next generation of gangsters joined together as members of techie gangs from around the World. We have already seen the results of using the Internet for sex trafficking and government espionage so this is definitely an international issue, not just domestic.
We’ve watched the progression of growth in the sexual predator networks as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are in the news daily for busting another group of child pornographers. At issue in our country is the fact that our judicial system is steeped in corruption and overload and judges that are not educated about today’s manifesting epidemic of cyber-crime. There are some that should have retired long ago. There are some who can’t even run a computer or send an email yet they decide for our country how cyber law will be doled out and cyber-crimes punished.
Other major areas of cyber-crime that are just beginning to be identified and addressed are cyber bullying and cyber stalking. There is still a lot of debate about how to define these distinct yet similar crimes. I liken them to simple and aggravated assault. Cyber bullying is a more temporary assault with minor damage and stalking is an aggressive and more invasive stage of these crimes against the person through an electronic means.
Bullying would be a more minor or temporary assault or loss due to the invasion or assault and stalking would be when the assault has begun to or has taken over the life of the victim. Many cyber bullies strike out in a temporary manner in response to a particular situation and then go about their business. Any cyber assault can be devastating to the victim but some bullying goes away within a short amount of time, these limits to be set through legislation and regulation. If the victim has damage from a temporary assault, they should have the legal right to retribution for those damages. On the other hand, stalking is a persistent and advanced bullying in that the assaults are expanded to include outreaching personal networks such as work, clubs, organizations, churches, schools, families, friends and associates. When cyber bullying affects 2 or more people, there is a definite and substantiated pattern of abuse and assault toward the victim, there is civil liability as to the damages to the victim or victims and/or it is affecting our society as a whole, it should be punishable through serious criminal charges such as an aggravated cyber stalking crime should be. Any death that results from cyber bullying or stalking should be tried as a murder with the degree set by motive, methods and intent as in any death by other person would be.
Our society has just begun to wake up to the reality of the 9 headed Dragon that the Internet has become in all of our lives. I believe that the cyber stalking that has occurred in schools and colleges across our nation and which led to student suicides have brought some much needed attention, not only to cyber bullying and stalking but to these horrendous crimes that are committed in person as well. While our television shows and movies are all about making fun of people, pushing them to violence and being intolerant of others, parents are realizing that they could lose a child over something that may have started as a practical joke and went bad along the way due to criminal activity that had no real regress.
While the future could seem bleak with all that said above, the truth is we just need to get up to speed with the criminals and then get ahead. It’s a matter of national security so the funding needs to be found for resources to have the latest technology, trained professionals, staffed labs to process evidence and prosecutors willing to take these cases to court and start setting precedents. Then the criminals will be sitting in prison like all the others we’ve learned to capture, prosecute and punish. It basically comes down to what type of society we all want to live in. If we want a safe Internet, we have to join together and make technology and its’ security a national priority.
For now, our society seems much too interested in what hyper-sexualized Hollywood and media have to say to realize that cyber-crime is invading every aspect of their lives and that of their families lives as well!