Internet and Computer Crime: Global Visibility, Local Responsibility

Frances Grodzinsky


Globalization is an umbrella term for a complex series of economic, social, technological and political changes that have been identified since the 1980s. These changes and processes are seen as increasing interdependence and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations “(Wikopedia, 2006). Originally referred to as an economic phenomena, the term globalization has grown in scope as technology and more specifically, the Internet, has made access to the world at large faster and for the most part unproblematic. Along with the positive aspects of globalization, Internet crime has also grown and is a true reflection of the complexity of globalization.

The advent of the Internet has redefined the scope of crime. What was once the province of local authorities within a local physical sphere has now become a phenomenon that crosses international borders. The global network has facilitated the growth of global computer crime as crackers, spammers, and child pornographers, invade cyberspace. It is often motivated by economics, and it has become a social problem for those who use the Internet regularly. The interactions made possible on this shared media create the possibilities of fraud, theft, and exploitation, that law enforcement worldwide has trouble containing.

This paper will examine globalization from the perspective of cyber crime and will investigate the jurisdictional issues associated with networks of criminals who work on a global scale. It will focus on three main areas: cracking, spamming and child pornography examining fraud, theft, and exploitation as well as the economic motivation behind these crimes. The paper will also address the problem of responsibility, and the effect of global crime on the Internet as an open and shared media.

A computer programmer knows that global variables, those seen by everything else in the program cause problems. If the programmer is careless, the variables can inadvertently be modified and the output of the program corrupted. Finding these programming errors is difficult because when a variable is visible to the entire program, the traceability of errors becomes long and tedious. That is why programming students are taught to embrace local variables that are declared within the scope of a module and visible locally. Modifications to that variable can only be made within the location of the module. How does this pertain to the topic at hand? The Internet is a totally global space where the defacto rule is global visibility. Only stand-alone computers that are unconnected enjoy the privilege of security (unless someone steals the computer), reserved for the “local variable”. Computer users with Internet access have had to implement firewalls, security systems and anti-virus software to attempt to restrict visibility to what is on their machines and networks. Restricting visibility is an attempt to ensure privacy of data, autonomy and control over private information and programs.

If we analyze social trends in the six years, we can see that there has been a rise of computer crime related to the globalization of the Internet. Crimes such as cracking, spamming, and child pornography have become international in scope crossing invisible national borders that do not exist over the Internet. Like errors with global variables, these crimes are difficult to trace. Even if the criminals are apprehended, the jurisdiction of punishment is often problematic and the laws are different from country to country. Two ethical questions that present themselves are, first, “How can users, ISP’s and governments respond adequately to the issue of global crime”? And secondly, “What is the effect of globalized crime on the Internet as a shared, open media?” Part One of this paper will examine globalization, Part Two will address three of the most prevalent crimes: cracking, spamming and child pornography in light of the complexity of globalization and Part Three will examine local solutions to these global problems.

This is an outline of the proposed paper with a brief introduction to the sections:

2. 1 Global Internet crime: Cracking, Spamming, and Child Pornography

Each subsection will examine specific instances of the crime, the economic implications and motivations


2.1.1 Cracking

Cracking is a name given to a malicious or criminal hacker. Richard Stallman, who attempted to distinguish crackers from the hackers that populated the Free Software movement, first coined this usage. Cracking has gone global and in the best sense of project management, teams of crackers have been created with each member contributing his or her strengths to commit the crime. This is what Piore (2005) refers to as “perhaps the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century”.

2. 1.2 Spamming

Spamming is the use of email systems to send messages to recipients that are both unsolicited and unwanted. The prevalence of unsolicited spam has grown to monstrous proportions within the last few years, bypassing filtering programs and security set up to prevent its arrival. Spambots crawl through the web, collecting Internet email addresses for mailing lists. In the first half of 2005, the number of bot infected systems in China grew 140% (Yeo, 2005). Seoul, Beijing and Taipei were listed among the 10 top cities with infected systems (Yeo, 2005).

2.1.3 Child Pornography

Child pornography is the exploitation of children for sexual purposes. It is also known colloquially as “kiddie porn. As far back as 1999, meetings between the European Union and the United States have been devoted to the issue of curtailing international child pornography rings on the Internet (Akdeniz, 2003). In addition web sites such as provide information and help in the global fight against child pornography. How has child pornography globalized? The rest of this section addresses this issue.

3. Global Problems Local Responsibility

The global nature of these three computer crimes has necessitated some creative solutions from authorities around the world. Although cooperative law enforcement groups around the globe may execute oversight and virtual identification of criminals on the Internet, the responsibility of apprehension and shutting down the sites usually falls to local authorities.

4. Conclusion

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