The Future of Cyber Criminology: Challenges and Opportunities
Internet technology and the development
of cyberspace have taken society to the next level of evolution.
Cyberspace has defied the boundaries and has made geography (or place)
irrelevant. Cyberspace presents myriad potential opportunities for
society in the new millennium. In the 1990s, a new era was ushered in,
in which Internet technology reigned supreme. However, the increase in
the netizens has dwarfed the technology to a mere medium.
Additionally, the perpetrators who attacked machines through machines
have started attacking real humans through the machines. This radical
development led criminologists to address the need for a discipline to
study and analyze criminal behavior in cyberspace. The crimes,
offender behaviors, and victimization that occur in cyberspace needed
to be studied from a social science versus a technological
perspective. In this backdrop, I established cyber criminology as a
sub discipline within the larger ambit of Criminology in 2007, with
the launch of the International Journal of Cyber Criminology
(http://www.cybercrimejournal.com), an online open access journal. In
2008, I also developed a theory to further the discipline of cyber
criminology. The theory is called space transition theory, and it
explains the causation of crimes in cyberspace (Jaishankar, 2007,
Cyber criminology is a
multidisciplinary field that encompasses researchers from various
fields such as criminology, victimology, sociology, Internet science,
and computer science. I define cyber criminology as “the study of
causation of crimes that occur in the cyberspace and its impact in the
physical space” (Jaishankar, 2007, para 1). I academically coined the
term cyber criminology for two reasons. First, the body of knowledge
that deals with cyber crimes should not be confused with investigation
and be merged with cyber forensics; second, there should be an
independent discipline to study and explore cyber crimes from a social
Since the launch of the International
Journal of Cyber Criminology, the term cyber criminology has taken its
academic roots in the online as well as offline academic circles
(Jaishankar, 2007; Nhan & Bachmann, 2010). According to Nhan and
Bachmann (2010), “Cyber criminology is slowly emerging from a niche
area that is often marginalized by mainstream criminology to one of
high importance” (p. 175). Although cyber criminology is gaining hold
within the mainstream field of criminology, the big question is, “Will
it evolve as a separate discipline?” There are many such criminologies
that have not become separate disciplines (e.g., green criminology,
bio-criminology, environmental criminology). One reason could be that
in spite of their research scope, they lacked content that could be
taught. However, cyber criminology has the potential to become an
independent discipline because of its dynamic expansion of exceptional
interdisciplinary content in teaching and research.
If cyber criminology is to be
established as a separate discipline, various challenges face the
modern-day cyber criminologists. These challenges include (a) issues
in teaching, (b) research in cyber criminology, and (c)
professionalization of the discipline.
1. Issues in
Many of the universities in the United
States and the United Kingdom offer criminology programs with a course
in cyber crime. Recently, some universities in the United Kingdom—such
as Canterbury Christ Church University; University College, Dublin;
and University of Bedfordshire—have started offering master of science
(MSc) courses in cyber crime forensics and forensic computing. The
mushrooming courses on cyber forensics prove that universities are
more interested in the practical investigative part of cyber crimes
than the causation of cyber crimes. Although the practical part is
important, neglecting the theoretical issues behind cyber crimes would
not compliment a holistic understanding of cyber crimes. Hence,
courses should be offered as an MSc in cyber criminology and
forensics; this will enable a combination of both theoretical and
practical aspects of cyber crimes.
Getting quality teachers to teach cyber
crimes, laws, and investigation is one of the biggest challenges in
developing programs in cyber criminology. The growth of Internet
science, computer science, and information technology has a great
impact on the development of the cyber criminology discipline.
Conventional criminologists do not seem to be adapting to the growing
needs of the expanding criminological discipline. They are not
learning additional disciplines such as information technology and
Internet science, both of which encompass the scope of cyber
criminology. Without technical knowledge, conventional criminologists
cannot move beyond teaching the merely theoretical aspects of cyber
crime. On the other hand, if technocrats were to be involved in
teaching cyber criminology, they may be much less concerned with
teaching the fundamentals of cyber criminology. They might be more
inclined to speak about the technology than about the issues behind
the cause of cyber crimes. Alternatively, if lawyers were to teach
cyber criminology, they might focus only on cyber laws, thus leaving
out other important components of cyber crimes. Such atomistic
teaching by criminologists, technocrats, or lawyers will not help
efforts to advance the formal discipline of cyber criminology. There
is a strong need for holistic professionals who have a collective
knowledge of cyber criminology, law, and forensics and who can take
cyber criminology to the next level. Conventional criminology
departments could offer a multidisciplinary program of cyber
criminology and forensics with assistance from other departments, such
as departments of computer science, law, and information technology.
Those professionals who complete their degrees in cyber criminology
could then be further absorbed as research and teaching assistants to
develop the discipline. This would create a pool of professionals who
would serve as a repository, of sorts, with a blend of both
theoretical and practical knowledge of cyber crimes, investigation,
and laws; these professionals would be valuable in advancing the
profession as well as assisting the criminal justice administration in
the investigation of cyber crimes.
2. Research in
Current research in cyber criminology
is highly encouraging. New and old criminologists have quickly
understood the gap in research that has occurred in the areas of cyber
crime research (Nhan & Bachmann, 2010). Even though phase of research
is slow in this area, it is gaining momentum (Jewkes, 2006; Mann &
Sutton, 1998). There are now also a handful of edited collections and
authored books on cyber crimes written by criminologists purely from
criminological perspectives (Jewkes, 2007; McQuade, 2005; Schmalleger
& Pittaro, 2008; Smith, Grabosky, & Urbas, 2004; Wall, 2001, 2003,
2007, 2009; Yar, 2006; Yar & Jewkes, 2010). Research Articles
published in the International Journal of Cyber Criminology are
qualitative and quantitative and of high quality.
Because research in cyber criminology
is new, it is not devoid of its own methodological flaws. In their
recent work, Nhan and Bachmann (2010) highlighted certain
methodological errors in cyber crime research. They feel that the
“lack of a general definition, measurement issues, and survey problems
such as bias and errors” (pp. 179 –182) must be rectified by cyber
criminologists in the future. Apart from these research issues, there
is a dearth of researchers in the field of cyber criminology. Except
for a few researchers in countries that include the United States, the
United Kingdom, India, and Canada, there are no major researchers
working in the field of cyber criminology. As pointed out earlier in
the Issues in Teaching subsection, these lacunae can be overcome by
creating more cyber criminologists. Research collaboration among
various universities that conduct work in the field of cyber
criminology can also fill this gap. Additionally, constant visits to
the research centers by professionals from the industry would help in
the development of research collaboration and transfer of expertise.
Professionalization of the Discipline
The major challenge that a new field of
cyber criminology would face is the issue of the creation of jobs and
the professionalization of the discipline. If cyber criminology
remains a theoretical discipline, the creation of jobs would remain
only at the level of theoretical research. As emphasized earlier,
there is a need to grow cyber criminology as not only a theoretical
but also a practical discipline. The amalgamation of cyber
criminology, laws, and computer forensics can pave a new pathway for
new jobs in the field of cyber criminology. Various universities and
other bodies can create a certification program for cyber
criminologists. These cyber criminologists can assist the police
departments in the investigation of cyber crimes and start their own
companies. Cyber criminologists also can evolve as cyber law
specialists. Another significant area to which cyber criminologists
can contribute is victim services. Cyber criminologists can become
cyber victim counselors, who would counsel individuals who have fallen
prey to cyber crimes and advise corporate bodies in the prevention of
cyber victimization. Cyber criminologists also could act as a resource
center on cyber crime victimization that would create awareness among
the scholarly and lay public.
The installation of a new International
Cyber Crime Research Centre at the Simon Frazer University Centre for
Cybercrime Research and at the University of Ontario Institute of
Technology—both in Canada—provides a good base for the development of
research works in cyber criminology. Research centers such the Berkman
Center for Internet and Society and the Centre for Cybercrime Studies
at John Jay College of Criminal Justice are dedicated to contributing
to the growth of cyber criminology. A cursory search on the Internet
provides information about more such centers that are being developed
and launched. This information gives me great hope that research in
cyber criminology will be taken in an entirely new and exciting
Also, I sincerely believe that the
challenges discussed herein can be overcome by current and future
cyber criminologists, and I see a bright prospect for the growth of
cyber criminology as an independent discipline.
About the current issue
This issue is a combined issue of
volume 4 (Issue 1 & 2). This consists of an editorial, eight articles
and a book review.
Elena et al in their article
bring out a hitherto unexplored phenomenon, the online child sexual
abuse by the female offenders. Though child sexual abuse is mostly
considered as a crime committed by men, females too involve in such
crimes, though not reported frequently. The anonymity of internet
further helps female offenders to hide and abuse innocent children.
Elena et al also emphasizes that this crime is committed with the
assistance of male colleagues and during investigation used the
techniques of neutralization was utilized by the female offenders.
Though an in depth analysis in to the minds of female offenders is not
done (which is difficult at the present moment), this article is a
significant contribution to the field of cyber criminology as it has
started looking child sexual abuse from a gendered perspective.
Hu et al from the fields of
finance and communication has provided a novel contribution to cyber
criminology. Their in-depth analysis of spams moves in a new
direction. They have analyzed the trading behavior of individuals vis
a vis spams sent to them by the stock marketing companies. They
analyzed over 40,000 spam messages and found “abnormal
returns, trading volume, and intraday price volatility were
significantly higher for spam e-mails containing a target price”.
Their analysis also found that mostly the firms that had a
headquarters outside US have less target value than the firms that had
headquartered in US. This may be an issue of trustworthiness among the
minds of the users in connection with the stock markets.
Marion Dion has analyzed advanced
fee fraud letters from a Machiavelian/narcissistic perspective. Dion
further explores the nuances in these letters and how they utilize the
skills of marketing to defraud the victims by emphasizing that they
hail from a glorious background and the victim is privileged of such
contact. This article is a key qualitative contribution as this has
added color to the analysis of advanced fee fraud letters. This
article has looked in to the psyche of the offenders who write such
letters from a different angle and that make this a noteworthy
As the cyberspace is elusive, it is
very difficult to undertake a study of offenders. Bachmann in
his article has made an attempt to analyze the risk propensity of
hackers. Contacting hackers is not an easy task and Bachmann needs to
be congratulated for undertaking such a painstaking study. Bachmann’s
study tries to analyze the psyche of the hackers and found that
hackers take more risk than others and this makes them different from
the common masses. He also tried to analyze such behavior with some
theories of crime. As this is an exploratory study, an extensive
corroboration with such theories was not possible. This article fills
in the gap of literature of cyber criminology, especially in the area
of cyber offenders.
Music piracy is a highly debatable
area. Many countries in the world differ in the ownership of music.
While some countries strongly emphasize the copyright issue and
ownership of music, some countries openly allow download of music via
torrents and other peer to peer sites. Gunter et al explores
this aspect from a different set of population from an US perspective.
As most of the studies in this area so far concentrated among college
students, this study comes as a break in the tradition. This study
analyzed the behavior of music piracy among school students. The
researchers tried to “predict involvement in music piracy with
demographics (sex, race, and class), educational achievement and
aspirations, and self-control” and found that the said factors had an
effect on the school students in relation with music piracy.
Cyber bullying is one of the largest
analyzed crimes of the internet. However, cyber bullying research
remains only to populations of few countries. Su and Holt have
moved beyond this convention and have analyzed a set of population
which was not studied earlier. They examined the behavior of victims
and bullies of a Chinese population. Until now, language barrier did
not allow such studies to be brought to the international audience.
However, with efficient translators and analysts such studies became
possible and this study is an important contribution as it gives a new
dimension to cyber bullying research. The study found out the usage of
sexual overtones in bullying and also the concern of the bystander
towards victims. This finding of bystander support is very new as most
of the other studies have shown the involvement of bystander as either
an active or passive participant and not as a strong mediator who stop
Reporting behavior is an important area
of research in the field of victimology. Moore et al have tried
to examine the reporting behavior of online harassment. Unlike the
physical space harassment where females tend not to report their
victimization, most of the females have reported their online
victimization. The researchers have also found that parental
regulations had no impact on their reporting behavior. Also the
researchers emphasized that youth who are more in the cyberspace
report more on their victimization than those who infrequently visit
the cyberspace. This research on cyber victimization fills the gap in
the literature and is a novel contribution to both the fields of cyber
criminology and victimology.
by Marion is on the effectiveness of the Convention of Cyber
Crime created by the Council of Europe in 2001. Marion examines the
Convention of Cyber Crime from the symbolic perspective developed by
Edelman (1964). She has made a extraordinary critique of the
Convention of Cyber Crime and emphasized that the current stature of
the Convention of Cyber Crime is not going to be useful to member
countries in the mitigation of crimes, as it is a mere symbolic
exercise. She has also provided some suggestions to improve the
effectiveness of the Convention of Cyber Crime and for creating better
policy on cyber crimes.
This issue was possible only because of
the authors continued faith in the quality of the International
Journal of Cyber Criminology and its outstanding reviewers. The
reviewers of this issue provided their review in a short notice and
have greatly supported me in bringing out the issue. From the bottom
of my heart, I sincerely thank all the reviewers for their constant
support and assistance that makes International Journal of Cyber
Criminology a quality online open access journal which sincerely
believes that knowledge of cyber crimes should unreservedly reach
everyone who has an access to the internet.
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