Internet Study: Cyber Threats and Cybercrime Awareness and Fear

Internet Study: Cyber Threats and Cybercrime Awareness and Fear

Igor Bernik (Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijcwt.2012070101
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Abstract

The authors present public comprehension and attitudes towards cyber threats and cybercrime in Slovenia. Cyberspace has become a wide area which can be exploited through various criminal activities, considering that access to information technology and the Internet is ubiquitous. As the number of users grows, so does the number of cybercrime incidences. Regrettably, users of information technology and the Internet know too little about the dangers in cyberspace and the protective measures to maximize security; they are also poorly informed about the legislation pertaining to cybercrime. In order to accurately gauge the knowledge of the average Internet user, the authors conducted a survey which was posted on the Internet in spring 2011. This survey is the basis for an examination of the perception of cybercrime and an attempt to make sense of the fear of it. The statistical analysis of the questionnaires show, how users perceive cybercrime. On the basis of theory and the results of their research, the authors present basic guidelines that can, if respected, minimize security risks in cyberspace. These guidelines can help increase awareness of cyber threats and are a source of information on how to safely interact in cyberspace. Users who are aware of the risks in cyberspace and know how to deal with them are less afraid of becoming victims of cybercrime. The insights acquired in this study are useful for all cyberspace users and have practical value as they can be used for further study of cybercrime.
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Introduction

What do we understand as cybercrime? What are we afraid of? As ascertained by Wall (2009: 54), “... claims about the prevalence of cybercrime lack clarification as to what it is, that is particularly ‘cyber’ about them.” Criminal acts are punishable by law, but a great number of offences are prosecuted by the use of the ‘classic legislation’ to regulate, for example, child pornography, theft, abuse, and similar acts. “Perhaps more confusing is the contrast between the many hundreds of thousands of incidents that are reported by the cyber-security industry each year and the relatively small number of known prosecutions” (Wall, 2008: 56). Can it be said, due to the fact that there are so few criminal acts perpetrated in cyberspace, that there is virtually no cybercrime? Does this just mean that it is difficult to collect evidence and prosecute cyber-criminals? Is fear of cybercrime justified? Do we have to examine again, what cybercrime actually is?

“We think that the best name for criminal activities connected to computers and computer networks is cybercrime. This term takes into consideration that computer crimes are carried out in the cultural context of cyberspace,” states Završnik (2005: 249). As defined by Alshalan (2005), “Cybercrime is a crime that is hidden, uses networks (nonphysical means), and sometimes leads to profits” and by Wall (2008: 46), “Cybercrime is a harmful activity that takes place in virtual environments and made the ‘hi-tech low-life’ hacker narrative a norm in the entertainment industry”, and if we consider the elements of cybercrime, as described by the International Convention on Cybercrime (Act Ratifying the Convention on Cybercrime and Additional Protocol to the convention on Cybercrime, concerning the Criminalisation of Acts of a Racist and Xenophobic Nature committed through Computer Systems (Convention on Cybercrime, 2001)), we can define cybercrime, “… as the use of information technology to carry out criminal acts.« It should be underlined that harmful and immoral acts in cyberspace which aren’t criminalized and penalized are also a part of cybercrime (Peršak, 2009: 194). Elements of cybercrime with examples from the American legislation are described in detail by Roche and Van Nonstrand (2008).

Cybercrime should be analyzed from both the viewpoint of the perpetrator and the victim, also the circumstances of the crime should be taken into account. The fear of cybercrime should also be considered, because it affects public perception of negative incidences and reactions to them. There is no fear of criminality if people aren’t aware they are in danger. On the other hand, informing them of certain deviant behavior causes exaggerated reactions to information security threats (Završnik, 2010: 120). Fear of (cyber) crime is related to an individual’s perception of how likely he is to become a victim and his evaluation of the extent of damage he can suffer (Meško et al., 2009: 293). In regard to this there is a discrepancy between statistical data on cybercrime (under-reported), the influence of media, and personal experiences of users in cyberspace.

Decreasing fear of cybercrime can only be achieved by educating users of the cyberspace. D’Arcy et al. (2009: 81) suggest the use of three safeguards to minimize endangerment and fear: users must be aware of potential threats, they must be educated about information security, and they must be introduced to various safety programs. How users conduct themselves in cyberspace depends on how well they are informed about its dangers (Bulgurcu, Cavusogn and Benbasat, 2010: 525). One of such programs is provided by ENISA – the European Network and Information Security (Enisa, 2011). Awareness of cybercrime and fear of it are therefore related to the user’s knowledge about cyber threats lurking in cyberspace. In the text bellow, we present the results of our research which shed light on how cybercrime is perceived in Slovenia, and how afraid of it users are.

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