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Educating Ourselves and the Professionals

written by: •edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 5/4/2009

Computer users know they should practice internet safety procedures but do we discuss this with and educate our families regularly? What about lawmakers, the courts and law enforcement? This article offers some suggestions.

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    The difference between cybercrime and everyday crime is that a computer or computer system is either necessary to complete the crime or is the target of the crime. As we educate our children, family and friends about everyday crime prevention, we should also educate them about cybercrime. It is unreasonable to depend on law enforcement to miraculously swoop us away from the path of an oncoming car, an identity thief, predator, or swindler.

    We are the first line of defense to protecting ourselves. Parents are the first line of defense and the immediate safe haven for children. Each person should have a basic understanding of individual rights and responsibilities with an awareness of potential danger regarding personal safety in both the everyday world and cyberspace.

    When using a tool (a hammer, silverware or the internet) the user should know the purpose of the tool, how to use the tool properly and safely, and how the tool can be used for harm or to compromise safety. The home computer has many purposes. It is used for communications, research, entertainment, education and commerce. Each of the uses shares the technology.

    Protecting ourselves protects our immediate family, our neighborhood and our country. Massive denial of service attacks creating financial loss to corporations and governments can be drastically reduced when individual computers identify and disable intrusive programs (Trojans, infectors, spyware) through the use of anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and firewalls. Identity fraud and theft can be reduced by corporate and individual protection of personal information. Children recognizing and telling parents without fear of being blamed about potentially inappropriate behavior online and in the neighborhood can reduce the number of children becoming victims to predators and hate mongers. Shoppers can reduce the number of fraud instances by protecting their personal information, using a credit card with a reputable company and recognizing potential scams (including identity theft, advance fee and phishing scams). Reading and understanding End-User License Agreements before downloading, registering, copying or installing can limit the number of piracy and intellectual property violations. Even the smallest effort by individuals on a continual basis to prevent crime and cybercrime can help reduce the number of instances that compromise personal safety in the everyday world and online.

    American schools are gradually including internet safety in the crime prevention curriculum. News media is developing into an education source for American computer users about cybercrime prevention and internet safety. Each internet user should be aware of the level of security awareness of computer users around them. Be aware of the security on the “borrowed" computer (library, hotel) or computer system (WiFi, friend’s computer). Be aware of persons having access to your correspondence and information such as: unknown persons having access to a computer you are communicating with like the computers of relatives of your friend, children using a friend’s computer, or giving permission to companies to share your information with third-party entities. As soon as you begin teaching your children right from wrong in everyday situations is when proper and safe computer use should be taught. Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure. If your children and the children in the neighborhood are taught on a daily basis to respect others both in everyday situations and on the internet and are taught to be aware of their surroundings in the neighborhood and online, both children and the neighborhood will be safer. The more neighborhoods that are aware of potential crime and cybercrime can reduce both crime and cybercrime.

    Respectfully educate other computer users. Discuss at an appropriate time a related beneficial news article or local problematic incident that could have been avoided. Local community organizers can organize community gatherings of both crime and cybercrime prevention discussion groups and education programs tailored to various age groups. When teaching your children about family values, respecting other people’s property and privacy, and personal safety in the home and neighborhood, also teach them that those same values and rules apply to the internet whether they are using a phone, computer or video game. Correct the notion that someone can’t be caught or identified because they are using the internet. Cybercriminals are identified, caught and prosecuted. Parents will eventually catch children doing something wrong in both everyday and online activities when children think they can’t possibly get caught.

    Every society has rules and laws to try to maintain public order and fairness for each person and entity. No one wants to have less privacy, respect, rights or privileges than someone else. There are laws that try to deter and punish criminal activity. The internet should not be different.

    Cybercriminals operate around the world. The number of potential victims is not limited by physical restrictions. Instead of victims of fraud being limited to one store or town, their victims can potentially be from around the world. Their electronic activities are not restricted by physical boundaries. An activity may be against the law at one physical location but may not be against the law at a different physical location. Although most cybercriminal activities parallel everyday activities, there is much debate regarding jurisdiction. If someone buys a fraudulent product, will the seller be prosecuted by the law enforcement agency responsible for the location of their home (where their computer is located), by the law enforcement agency responsible for the location hosting their website, by the law enforcement agency responsible for the location where the product was shipped from, or by the law enforcement agency responsible for the location of the purchaser? It is possible for each of these locations to be in a different country with different laws and penalties.

    National policies and laws related to crime and cybercrime should compliment and enhance the two basic goals of global free societies: freedom and safety for the individual and deterrence and punishment for violators of the law. National policies and laws should be blind regarding the tool or method used. They should be formulated to fairly balance the privacy, respect, responsibilities, rights and safety of each individual whether that individual is a person, a corporate entity or a government entity.

    Lawmakers formulate the laws society follows. To make these laws fair to the majority of individuals they need to understand the basics of the particular situation: how the system works; how criminals can be creative to bypass the system; how to follow the path the criminal tries to hide; how to identify and prosecute the criminal; and, how to identify innocent individuals the criminal used for the completion of the crime. Since it is impractical for every lawmaker to complete basic training in network technology and digital forensics, each legislative body in every country should consider having a committee of trained members who will focus exclusively on technology concerns and issues.

    American laws generally seem to be created as responses to incidents instead of as prevention for future incidents. Perhaps lawmakers should consider national minimum standards. Citizens, including consumers, businesses and government, can potentially benefit from national minimum standards regarding general public concerns and issues such as data privacy, fair use (of digital media), computer operating systems, the monitoring of employees' (electronic) activities, or the storage of electronic communications. Individual states will then have the option to develop laws and guidelines to improve their citizen’s freedoms, rights, responsibilities and safety. Both the IEEE 1680 standard for environmental guidelines and HIPAA for the right to consumer medical privacy provide individual states with the option to improve the law within their boundaries tailored to their citizens.

    Each attorney’s office around the world should consider having at least one specialist in digital evidence and computer crime. Each attorney needs to understand different kinds of evidence. They need to understand where the evidence came from, the circumstances surrounding the creation of the evidence and figure out if the evidence is real or fake, among many other things. Attorneys do this with evidence at a physical crime scene although they don’t typically collect the evidence. Attorneys need to know how to do this with digital evidence, the evidence for a cybercrime. They should also be able to present detailed digital evidence simply and concisely so a juror, the typical citizen summoned for jury duty in the USA, without background or experience in computers or digital evidence can understand enough about the presented evidence during the court proceeding to make a knowledgeable and fair determination of guilt or innocence.

    Police departments around the world should consider requiring basic cybercrime training as a necessary part of the police academy’s education programs. Every police department should have a computer crime unit with each officer completing at least basic training for recognizing and preserving digital evidence. This computer crime unit should make their services available to first responders, typically the patrol officers, so possible digital evidence is not unintentionally tampered with or destroyed.

    There are crimes unique to computers and computer systems but the majority of cybercrimes are the crimes society has been fighting since the very beginning and will continue to fight with for future generations. The internet is not limited to one person, one community or one country. The internet is global in nature. It encourages international interaction. Whether this interaction is used for good or bad purposes depends on the user. The internet is used for global dialogue, international communication, international commerce and global crime.

    The Convention on Cybercrime is the first international treaty agreed to by the 26 member states of the Council of Europe along with Canada, Japan, South Africa and the United States of America on November 23, 2001. Basically, the Convention on Cybercrime allows law enforcement to ask their counterpart in another country to collect digital evidence from the accused and arrest and extradite the accused. This allows each country to be their own independent country with their own customs and laws but allows each country to respect and cooperate with the other countries towards agreement of basic international cyberlaw. The global internet is still in its infancy regarding global fairness, laws, privacy, respect, responsibilities and rights to each individual of each country. Maritime law (the law of the international waterways) wasn’t different when it was first being developed as cyberlaw is being developed now.

    The safety of all netizens, the individual computer users across the globe, depends on each computer user to maintain the security of their home, office and government computers, their personal safety and the security of their personal information. With each computer user protecting themselves, their family and their information online as much as they do with everyday situations, the local, national and global communities will most probably notice a remarkable change for the better through crime and cybercrime statistics.