A Short History Of Cyber Crime - Part 1- Its Motivations

A History Of Cyber Crime & Its Motivations - Part 1.


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The first recorded so-called cyber crime took place in the year 1820, soon after Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a textile manufacturer in France, produced the first programmable loom. Indeed, This loom played an important part in the development of other programmable machines, such as an early version of digital compiler used by IBM to develop the modern-day computer.  

The apparent early date of the first cyber crime is not surprising considering the fact that the abacus, which is thought to be the earliest form of a computer, has been around since 3500 B.C. in India, Japan and China. And it was this device that mechanically allowed the repetition of a series of steps in the weaving of special fabrics without the need for people. 

This first cyber crime resulted from fears amongst Jacquard’s employees that their traditional employment and livelihood were being threatened. They committed acts of sabotage to discourage Jacquard’s from further use of modern technology. And in 1834 pair of thieves hack the French Telegraph System and steal financial market information, effectively conducting the world’s second cyberattack.

Two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1878, the fledgling Bell Telephone Company kicked a group of teenage boys off the telephone system in New York for repeatedly and intentionally misdirecting and disconnecting customer calls.

Today, computers have come a long way with neutral networks and nano-computing promising to turn every atom in a glass of water into a computer capable of performing a billion operations per second.

That is not so surprising that these and other cybercrimes took place before the modern computer as the abacus, which is thought to be earliest form of a computer, has been around since 300 BC in India, Japan and China. 
The abacus, called Suan-Pan in Chinese, was first chronicled circa 1200AD in China. The device was made of wood with metal re-enforcements. On each rod, the classic Chinese abacus has 2 beads on the upper deck and 5 on the lower deck; such an abacus is also referred to as a 2/5 abacus.

It is difficult to imagine counting without numbers, but there was a time when written numbers did not exist. The earliest counting device was the human hand and its fingers, capable of counting up to 10 things; toes were also used to count in tropical cultures. Then, as even larger quantities (greater than ten fingers and toes could represent) were counted, various natural items like pebbles, seashells and twigs were used to help keep count.
Merchants who traded goods needed a way to keep count (inventory) of the goods they bought and sold. Various portable counting devices were invented to keep tallies. 

The abacus is one of many counting devices invented to help count large numbers. When the Hindu-Arabic number system came into use, abaci were adapted to use place-value counting. Abaci evolved into electro-mechanical calculators, pocket slide-rules, electronic calculators and now abstract representations of calculators or simulations on smartphones. The era of modern computers, however, began with the analytical engine of Charles Babbage, and changed all that.

Complexity Of Cyber Crime Prosecutions 

Cyber disputes are complex in nature due to the following reasons: 

  • The world itself becomes a big courtroom when cyber crimes across geographic boundaries take place. 
  • Because of the global nature of the internet, the clarity as to which court would have the exclusive jurisdiction to try the case is missing. 
  • Litigation and the legal systems in different countries are different and can be extremely expensive and threaten to wipe out millions of legal entities into oblivion. 

There is considerable doubt relating to the efficacy of decisions given by the courts of one jurisdiction on a global level and the sanctions are questionable.

Common Cyber Crimes

Cyber crime is not a new category of criminal behavior, so much as criminals taking advantage of new and innovative technology to pursue criminal acts taht are as old as humanity.  These include: 

Netspionage:    Netspionage can occur when perpetrators are back into online systems or individual PCs to obtain confidential information for the purpose of selling it to other parties criminals.

Cyber Squatting:   Cyber squatting is the dubious practice of registering or trafficking famous brand names as Internet domain names with the explicit intention of later selling them to the appropriate owner at an inflated rate-tantamount online extortion.

Cyber Stalking:   Cyber stalking refers to the use of the internet, email or other electronic communications device to stalk another person. It is an electronic harassment that involves harassing or threatening behavior targeting a particular email or internet user over a period of time.

Cyber Terrorism:    Cyber terrorism occurs when terrorists cause virtual destruction in online computer system.
It can be defined as the premeditated use of computing resources for disruptive activities or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives, or to intimidate or coerce any person in furtherance of such objectives.

Cyber Warfare:   Cyber warfare is a term used to describe cyber attacks carried out against enemy computers or computer networks in order to manipulate or disable or damage them. In cyber warfare, the goal is to immobilize the enemy systems or throw them off the track from either performing their intended functions or to thwart their capabilities to launch cyber attacks against others.

Some Theories For The Motives Of Cyber Criminals

The motivation to carry out cyber crimes are as well-establishes human behaviours as the crimes themselves, although the online world can magnify their impact and enable to perpetrators to act from a geographic distance, with many more opportunities for concealment.

The Desire for Entertainment:    This regards youngsters who have been introduced to hacking for the very first time. Some try out various methods of hacking to see what works and what doesn’t. “Scamps” are playful hackers who do nothing more than get additional peer respect by hacking into websites and posting messages or pictures on them. 

Profit:    This is the most widespread motive behind all cybercrimes and, indeed most crimes-everyone wants to make money. 

Revenge:    Revenge and infuriation typically stems from anger. Dumped lovers or spouses, retrenched employees, businessmen who feel cheated or ripped off etc. belong to this category.  Anyone who feels they have been unjustly treated can do anything from defacing a firm’s website with profanities to introducing viruses or mounting a full-scale DoS attack (DoS is short for Denial-of-Service attack and this is a type of attack on a network that is designed to bring the network to its knees by flooding it with useless traffic).

Social Motivators: Some hackers break into systems just to prove their capabilities to their counterparts. It stems from the drive for “acceptance” and “notoriety” in hacker societies. This is a showdown of “who is bad?”

Political Motivation:    These may be activists who have political agendas when committing cyber crimes. They usually ascribe to radical ideologies. They may have or are facing difficulties.  They use the Internet merely to spread propaganda or get their opinions heard. They could also severely debilitate the systems of any other party which does not support them so as to weaken rivals or simply procure press coverage to strengthen their cause. 
Their crimes include cyber theft to obtain funds for their campaigns and real world criminal activities. Identifying hackers of this group can often be difficult.  Some may be indulging in crime purely for political reasons while others may simply want to exploit the political turmoil or propagate a religious agenda which may be a prelude to a terrorist attack. 

Sexual Motivations:     Sexually motivated cyber criminals encompass passive and active pedophiles as well as serial rapists. Passive pedophiles download child pornography and indulge in  pornographic stories and photos. 
They use chat rooms to befriend children. They can then choose to rape the children after arranging a meeting with them or choose to gradually seduce them into a fairly long sexual relationship. There are severe penalties for these culprits. 

Psychiatric Illness:    Psychiatric illness is regarded as the rarest but potentially most harmful cause for cybercrimes. This is caused by people with mental disorders. Those who suffer from schizophrenia depression, mania, and personality disorders etc. are detached from society.  They can find refuge in the world of cyberspace where their true  personalities are masked and where they can act out their fantasies in relative  peace. These criminals may potentially be very hard to track down as their motivations many are illogical and their next course of action unpredictable. The scenario can be more serious with the highly intelligent criminals belonging to this category.

To Be Continued: 

References: 

A Sahrish / Academia    Legal Service India:     Bezaspeaks:     CueMath

PDF Coffee:        Herjavec Group:      Ryerson / Toronto Metropolitan University

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