Information and communication technologies (ICTs); while providing a range of benefits to individuals, organisations and governments; also provide new opportunities for criminal activities to emerge. This chapter provides an overview of criminal victimization online. The focus is on the impact of cybercrimes on victims and the associated legal, technical, educational and professional responses to cybervictimization. The focus on cyber-victimization is situated within the broader context of responses to victims of crime in off-line settings. The form of cyber-crimes will continue to change as new ICTs and applications emerge. Continued research into the prevalence, types and impacts of cyber-victimization is required in order to inform victim service provision and effectively address the needs of current and future cyber-victims.
ICTs may be used as a means of communication and organization to support criminal activities. ICTs provide criminals with a “global reach” (Savona & Mignone, 2004, p. 5) through cheap, fast, secure, anonymous communication with multimedia capacity. Further, ICTs can create new opportunities for criminal activity and provide new ways of conducting existing criminal activities (Savona & Mignone, 2004; Wall 2005).
These criminal activities that are enabled by ICTs are broadly referred to in the media and some academic discourse as cyber-crime. While the use of the term cyber-crime has been criticized as being “fairly meaningless because it tends to be used emotively rather than scientifically … with no specific reference point in law” (Wall, 2005, p. 79), it provides a useful umbrella when considering crimes committed using ICTs.
Competing definitions of cyber-crime have emerged. For example, Tavani (2004) argued for limiting the use of the term to only those crimes “in which the criminal act can be carried out only through the use of cybertechnology and can take place only in the cyberrealm” (p. 183). Tavani delimited cyber-crime from ‘cyberrelated crimes’ which include ‘cyberexacerbated crimes’ (such as cyber-stalking, online paedophilia and Internet pornography where technology can affect the scope of the crime) and ‘cyberassisted crimes’ (such as using the Internet to lodge fraudulent income tax forms) where the technology is used to assist in the conduct of the crime without affecting the scope of the crime. Similarly, Grabosky (2004) differentiated between conventional crimes committed with computers from cyber-crimes that involve attacks on computer networks, including theft and espionage.
Wall (2005) proposed the use of an ‘elimination test’ to determine whether a crime would still exist without the Internet. Using this elimination test Wall concluded that the Internet provides increased opportunities for existing types of crime (without the Internet these crimes would still exist, but would likely be reduced in number), new methods of conducting traditional crimes (without the Internet these new opportunities for offending would disappear) and opportunities for conducting new types of criminal activity.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Cyber Identity Theft: Cyber identity theft refers to the on-line misappropriation of identity tokens using information and communication technologies.
Spam: The unsolicited bulk distribution of promotional emails.
Cyber-Crime: Cyber-crime refers to crimes that are conducted (or facilitated by) using computers and networks.
Cyber-Victimization: Cyber-victimization refers to the process of victimizing others through the use of information and communication technologies. Cyber-victims can be governments, organizations or individuals. In this chapter, cyber-victimization is used to refer specifically to the victimization resulting from cyber-criminal behaviour.
Keyloggers: Malicious software (‘malware’) installed on victims computers to record keystrokes (including passwords and logins).
Cyber-stalking: Cyberstalking refers to stalking activities conducted online using information and communication technologies. Cyber-stalking activities include threats, harm to reputation (‘cyber-smearing’), damage to data or equipment, computer monitoring and attempts to access confidential information
Cyber-Bullying: Cyber-bullying refers to bullying behaviour conducted online through information and communication technologies. Cyber-bullying behaviours encompass on-line postings, conversations or messages that are designed to harass, humiliate and intimidate the receiver. This may include threats, insults and teasing.