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Article: Cybercrime

by Cheryl Ting (cycycy)

Published in ReMag May 2011 issue.

Because of the pervasiveness of the internet, I would like to provide an insight to crime that can happen there, on the internet, known to many as cybercrime. According to TechTerms.com, Cybercrime is criminal activity done using computers and the internet.  Sometimes, it may also be known as E-crime, computer crime or online crime.

When the word cybercrime is mentioned, I reckon many people will be reminded of computer hackers or organizations that commit fraud via the internet. However, apart from the above mentioned, there are various other types of cybercrimes. Maybe even before you know it, you have already fallen victim to internet crime or committed a cybercrime.

I would agree that the Internet is a great tool and companion for all age groups especially for students and working adults. It is a great source of information, which even surpasses books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. This is because all information is available only a few clicks away and easily accessible. While using the internet for research purposes, some people tend to copy paste material without doing any citing. Some were ignorant; some don’t know how to do proper referencing, while some just couldn’t be bothered. However, people while using this convenience to their advantage, neglected the fact that they could get into trouble. Using ideas and material without authorization of the original author is a crime called plagiarism. Presenting ideas from others as your own is a form of theft.  Thus, to avoid plagiarism, acknowledgement of the author should be done. And in this case, referencing tools like the ‘Oxford Reference Online’ or ‘Harvard Referencing Guide’ will come in handy.

I was unlucky enough to fall into a phishing scam two years ago. The phisher in question sent me an email, stating that he was an administrator from Facebook, and that my Facebook account was reported several times for abuse. The email directed me to a Facebook log in page, to lodge a report if these complaints were false. I did it accordingly, as it looked legitimate to me. It wasn’t until the next day when I realised my mistake. I couldn’t access my Facebook account anymore. Shortly after, I received a forwarded email from one of my contacts, asking me to beware of a certain phishing scam. The phisher mentioned was the same with the one who sent me the phishing mail. But it was too late. My account was already hacked and the password changed. It wasn’t until after I requested a password change that I realised some of my information was changed and some applications sabotaged. Since then, I began to screen my mails more carefully. Phishers try to obtain data such as log in information or credit card numbers through email scams, so think twice before you check out links in fishy emails.

By doing a simple search with search engines, we can know that there are many sites offering free download of songs, videos, movies, files, software and other materials. However, it is to common knowledge that not all of these downloads are legal. Some illegal downloads are against the copyright law. Copyright is defined by Britannica Online Encyclopaedia as “the exclusive, legally secured right to reproduce, distribute, and perform a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work”. Therefore, the uploading and distributing works that are protected by copyright law without permission of the copyright owner is illegal. The same goes to downloading these illegally distributed works. Copyright law is amended to acknowledge the creator, also to protect the monetary rights of the creator from the copyrighted work. Have it ever crossed your mind that when you’re downloading illegally on one end, you’re letting the creator down at the other end? He/she not only loses revenue, but also influence and honour. Apart from that, it is against the law and you are at the risk of being apprehended. So, the right thing to do is to purchase original works or obtaining them though legitimate sites like iTunes, instead of downloading them from the net illegally. This way, you show respect to both the creator and the law.

Another common cybercrime is cyber-bullying among minors, which can form a branch of its own. There are various types of cyber-bullying, such as harassment, threatening, using foul language towards someone, defamation and so on. It is very different from school-bullying, as in school usually those physically or mentally weaker students get harassed or bullied, whereas cyber-bullying can happen to anybody, and sometimes cyber-bullies can even target a random person to satisfy their ego or rage, or just for the gist of it. Sometimes you won’t even know who is the one harassing you, as the person could remain anonymous if he or she chooses not to reveal themselves.  In 2007, BBC news UK reported the story of a cyber-bullying victim, Julianne Flory. She has an outgoing personality, yet she was insulted by a group of schoolmates through her social networking website. They got access to her instant messaging service and the insults grew worse. In the end, they even threatened to stab her and hurt her family members. It was only resolved after she reported it to the authorities, and the bullies were tracked down and warned.

Last but not least, the most serious cybercrime of all – hacking. “Hack”, as defined by the Oxford’s Advanced Learner’s dictionary, is “to secretly find a way of looking at or changing information on somebody’s computer system without permission”. Thus, there are many who use this skill to enter others’ computer systems in order to obtain data or change information to their own benefit, or for sabotaging purposes. There can be various types of hacking attacks too, each with a different motive and implication, such as theft of identity, theft of confidential business information, obtained credit card information and so on. Sometimes, using other’s accounts without permission is also a form of hacking. We see this often when someone uses a friend’s password to log in to social networking sites without permission. This is an act of invading privacy, and it could turn into an offense. Hackers cause serious problems to internet users, companies and the online community, and cannot be ignored. Thus, steps to ensure internet security such as the installation of firewalls, spyware and antivirus software and so on is a must, to prevent hackers having a chance to gain access to your computer system.

Regretfully, there are many other illegal activities conducted via the internet that I did not manage to cover. Cyber stalking, creating and distributing viruses to destroy computer systems, illegal trading, stealing of identity, spamming and so on are all classified under cybercrimes. These are happening every second round the clock, on any corner of the earth. They can happen to you too. So, from now on, be sure to take measures to protect you and your computer all sorts of risks, and be on your toes to avoid being associated with cybercrime.

Cheryl Ting, preferably Cheryl Plankton has an obsession towards plankton, for no whatsoever reason. A random girl with a peculiar temper, she laughs and turns red-faced at jokes and bites if you step on her toes. Completed AUSMAT in Sunway College JB and currently doesn’t belong to any tertiary institution. Oops. No student discount for now. =)

Posted on May 15th, 2011
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