Europe’s Cybercrime

Technological advancements in computer science have made it possible for a wider range of criminal activities particularly with the new and innovative means of online communications. Cybercrime is described by the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Treaty as criminal conduct against data to infringement of copyright laws. Other experts have provided wider definitions of cybercrime to include cyber-stalking, fraud and child pornography. Symantec provides a more concise definition and describes cybercrime in the following terms: “…any crime that is committed using a computer or network, or hardware device.

” Along with the introduction and evolution of cybercrimes jurisdictional and investigative challenges have complicated the detection and control of this new class of criminal activity. The discussion that follows focuses on the ongoing difficulties with solving cross-border cybercrimes and the international efforts made so far to stifle those difficulties. By and large the discussion focuses on how those efforts are beneficial to law enforcement agents and what can be done to improve upon the current international efforts.

While multinational cooperation appears to be the most productive method of fighting cybercrime, a joint effort by national governments to actively investigate and prosecute cybercrime is necessary if multinational cooperation is going to function effectively. Legal Complexities with respect to cybercrime In an article published in the New York Times on January 27, 2003 it was revealed that in a survey of 500 companies, conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Computer Security Group the previous year computer fraud cost losses in excess of US$4 million and theft of company information cost losses in excess of US$6 million.

According to Nir Kshetri of Bryan School of Business and Economics, these losses reflect the tenacity of cybercriminals and the ease with which they are permitted to operate. Kshetri goes on to explain that while cybercrime involves essentially the same conduct, the lack of comity of nations which lends itself to different legal consequences for that conduct permits the success of cybercrime. Therefore the most obvious difficulty in respect of cybercrime is its multi-national dimensions.

Patricia Bellia, Assistant Professor at Notre Dame University noted that law enforcement agencies have to overcome difficult challenges in their pursuit of cyber criminals co-existing in several jurisdictions. These challenges are fairly “common in internet crime. ”   Professor Suzan Brenner provides an excellent example of the complications surrounding the investigation and prosecution of cybercrime in her synopsis of a cybercrime referred to as the “love bug”. The love bug was the name given to a computer virus that surfaced sometime in May of 2000 and spread rapidly on an international level.

It was calculated to destroy many different types of files and within its opening hours it had affected more than 279,000 computers worldwide. The love bug had infected the computers of large companies including the House of Lords, Dow Chemical Company and Ford Motor Company. Once it had been determined that the love bug had originated in the Philippines, law enforcement officials from both the United States and the Philippines set about tracing the person or persons responsible for the creation and deployment of the love bug.

From the onset, there were legal difficulties of mammoth proportions. To start with the Philippines were sorely lacking in definitions of and provisions in respect of cybercrimes. Moreover, it was difficult to justify grounds for the issuing of a search warrant for a suspect on the basis of some undefined cybercrime. Making matters worse the Philippine law had not specific crime capable of applying to conduct encompassing the breaking into of a computer system or for deploying a virus and/or using a computer for the purpose of committing the offence of theft.

In order to compensate for the shortfall in Philippine law the prosecutor charged the suspect with theft and fraud under credit card legislation since there was no specific common law or statutory offence reflective of the actual cyber misconduct. Eventually the Department of Justice withdrew the case claiming that: "…the credit card law [did] not apply to computer hacking and that investigators did not present adequate evidence to support the theft charge. " As a result of this fiasco the Philippines enacted legislation defining specific cybercrimes and penalties for offenders.

Brenner maintains that the love bug case identifies with reasonable clarity the difficulties for law enforcement in respect of the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes. Brenner identified four key areas of concern. They are: 1. A legislative failure in identifying and making provision for cyber specific criminal conduct. 2. A lack of international treaty agreements in respect of cybercrimes. 3. Difficulties identifying the country with jurisdiction over the cybercrime complaint. 4. Difficulties identifying the number of persons and the specific crimes committed and the breadth of the resulting damages.