From Young Hackers to Crackers

From Young Hackers to Crackers

Jean-Loup Richet (Nantes University, Nantes, France)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/jthi.2013070104
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A growing number of scholars state that the Internet presents “some unique opportunities for deviant behavior” (Rogers et al, 2006). However, although some researchers have studied this issue, the factors leading teenagers to adopt a web-deviant behavior have received less attention. From this background, the present article sets out to explore the facilitators of cybercrime. The author will explain the diffusion of web-deviant behavior amongst young people through an analysis of the literature while taking into consideration the conceptual model of diffusion of innovation by Greenhalgh et al. (2004).
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Cybercrime Vs. Hacking

Cyberspace transforms the scale and scope of offense; has its own limits, interactional forms, roles, and rules; and it has its own forms of criminal endeavor (Capeller, 2001). According to Yar (2005), the “novel socio-interactional features of the cyberspace environment (primarily the collapse of spatial-temporal barriers, many-to-many connectivity, and the anonymity and plasticity of online identity) [...] make possible new forms and patterns of illicit activity.” Anyone who is computer literate can become a cybercriminal.

There is still no clear definition of “cybercrime” (Fafinski et al., 2010). In some cases, cybercrime can encompass the use of computers to assist “traditional” offending but it can also be a crime mediated through technology (Wall, 2007) or an exclusive technological crime, such as a denial-of-service attack). Many criminal law scholars focus on the legalistic framework. For instance, Wall (2001) uses the categories of criminal law to create categories of cybercrime. Others categorize cybercrime as an offense “related to computers, related to content or against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems” (Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, 2001).

The use of the term “hacker” has changed over the years from a positive and complimentary definition — the enthusiastic computer programmer who is particularly brilliant — to a negative and pejorative one: the cybercriminal. Nowadays, “cybercriminal” is a term synonymous with “hacker.” Hacker, as a term, is commonly used by the mass media to refer to an intruder breaking into computer systems to steal or destroy data. Police describe almost any crime committed through, with, by, or against a computer as “hacking.” “For many people, the hacker is an ominous figure, a smart-aleck sociopath ready to burst out of his basement wilderness and savage other people’s lives for his own anarchical convenience” (Sterling, 1993).

This concept of “hackers” is still the subject of heated controversy. In response to the common demonization of the term hacker, The New Hacker’s Dictionary (Raymond & Steele, 1991) has coined the term “cracker.” Crackers use their computer-security-related skills to author viruses, trojans, etc., and illegally infiltrate secure systems with the intention of doing harm to the system or criminal intent and to differentiate them from the original and non-criminal hacker. This article will use the term hacker in its original positive meaning and the term cracker for those committing cybercrime.

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