The Criminology of Computer Crime

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15 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 6 μήνες)

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The Criminology of Computer Crime

Positive school was based on the belief that crime
was the result of identifiable traits and social

Crime producing traits and factors could then be


Isolated and


Treatment could then be administered to eliminate
to control the trait or factor

An individual commits a crime because
that person makes a rational choice to do
so by weighing the risks and benefits of
committing the act.

Choice theory became popular among in
the late 70s for three reasons:

The positive school began to be questioned.

The reported crime rate in the 60s and 70s
increased significantly and this was considered
evidence to some that what was being done was
not working

The practice of rehabilitation came under attack

Judicial policy changed focus, on the
offense and away from the offender

Choice theory provided that since the offender has
made a rational choice to commit the offense, the
focus should be on the offense committed, not the

Policies like mandatory sentencing and
“three strikes you’re out” became popular
based this rationale.

The effort was to have offenders fear the
punishment and thus be deterred from
committing the act

Cohen and Felson postulated that there is
always a steady supply of offenders who
are motivated to commit crime and thus
changes in crime rates are due to:

changes in the availability of targets and

the absence of capable guardians and

elements of rational choice.

According to Cohen and Felson, crime
occurs when there is a convergence in
time and space of three factors:

A motivated offender (hacker)

A suitable target (vulnerable computer system)

The absence of a capable guardian (inadequate
software protection)

Deterrence theory flows directly from
choice theory.

If we make the consequence unpleasant enough
the offender will not commit the act.

Deterrence is either

General deterrence or

Specific deterrence

Seeks to discourage would
be offenders from
committing criminal acts

be offenders choose not to commit a
certain act because they fear the sanction that
may be imposed

Sometimes offenders are made an example of in
order to keep others from committing the same

Designed to impose a sanction on a convicted
offender in order to prevent them from
continuing to commit criminal acts in the future.

The sanction should be so distasteful to the
offender that they do not want to commit any
more wrongful acts.

There are several assumptions that are key
to the deterrence theory:

Individuals are rational actors

Offenders must be aware of the penalty for
particular crimes

They must view the risks as unpleasant

In order for deterrence to be effective it is assumed
that the sanction is swift, certain, and severe

There is minimal evidence to support the
argument that the threat of arrest and
punishment deters criminals

Cognitive development theory assumes that
individuals develop in a sequential manner.

Kohlberg argued that everyone experiences
six stages of moral development:

Punishment and obedience orientation state

Hedonistic orientation stage

Interpersonal concordance stage

Law and order orientation stage

Social contract, legalistic orientation stage

Orientation to universal ethical principles stage

The first two stages
(Punishment and
obedience orientation state and the Hedonistic
orientation stage)
are usually completed by
age 7

Stages 3 and 4
(Interpersonal concordance
stage and Law and order orientation stage)

passed through and completed from
preadolescence through adoles

The last stages begin in early adulthood

Psychopath and Sociopath are technical
terms referred to antisocial personality


Repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for



Irritability and aggressiveness

Reckless disregard for safety of self or others

Consistent irresponsibility

Lack of remorse

Most people cannot understand why
pedophiles commit the crimes they do.

Pedophiles develop a sexual interest over a long
period of time.

Pedophiles are often exposed to some type of
sexual abuse or trauma during their own

Pedophiles often suffer abuse or other related
problems during their own sexual development.

Social structure theories focused on why
lower class people are more likely to
commit crime than middle and upper
class people.

Modifications and expansions of the
original theories have moved away from
an economic distinction and study all
social classes.

Crime is the result of lack of opportunity,
in particular economic opportunity.

U.S. society instills in citizens a desire for
financial success but does not provide all people
equal opportunity to achieve that success.

Those who do not have an equal opportunity are
strained and thus more likely to be criminal.

The cultural goal of American society is
economic success.

The primary goal of US citizens is
material wealth.

Members of the lower class have less
access to education and good jobs than
members of the middle and upper class.

Strain theory is thus sometimes referred
to as blocked opportunity theory.

People have five modes of adaptation:

1. Conformity

Accepts the cultural goal of economic success and
accepts the institutionalized means to obtain it

Highly unlikely to commit criminal acts.

2. Ritualism

Rejects the cultural goal of economic success but
accepts the institutionalized means to obtain the
cultural goal.

They have lowered their aspiration for financial
success but still abide by the means to obtain it

It is unlikely that a ritualist will commit criminal acts.

Five modes of adaptation continued:

3. Innovation

Accepts the goal of economic success but rejects the
institutionalized means to obtain the goal.

The person innovates new means to obtain economic
success besides education and employment.

More likely to commit criminal acts

4. Retreatism

Rejects both the cultural goal of economic success
and institutionalized means to obtain the goal.

These people frequently escape into drug addiction
and may commit crimes to support their drug use but
they do not aspire to financial success.

Five modes of adaptation continued:

5. Rebellion

Rejects both the cultural goal and means but
substitutes new goals and means to obtain them

Likely to lead to crime and can be represented by
some gangs, militias, cults, and countercultures.

Criminality is likely to occur

People who already enjoy a certain
degree of monetary success may engage
in instrumental crimes such as money
laundering, espionage, or fraud simply
because they perceive goal blockage in
their attempt to secure ever

Agnew’s theory does not focus on
economic success as the prominent goal
in U.S. society.

Agnew argues the crime is due to
negative affective states.

Negative affective states include anger,
frustration, disappointment, depression,
and fear, which are obviously
experienced by all classes.

Negative affective states are caused by
several different sources of strain:

Strain can be caused by the failure to achieve
positively valued goals.

Strain can be caused by the disjunction between
expectations and achievements.

Strain can be caused by the removal of positively
valued stimuli from the person.

Loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend, death of a relative, loss of
a job, or divorce of parents.

Strain may be due to the presentation of negative

Family conflict, school failure, child abuse, and stressful life

The main tenet of subculture theory is
that criminals, including computer
criminals, hold values, norms, and beliefs
that are in opposition to those held in the
dominant culture.

These people behave in a manner that is
consistent with their values, norms, and
beliefs, which many times will bring
them in conflict with the law.

The goal of lower class youth is middle
class membership.

Lower class youth face developmental
handicaps which place them at a
disadvantage in being able to obtain
their goal.

These include lack of educational
preparation and inability to delay

Since the lower class has different norms
and values than the middle class, lower
class families are incapable of teaching
their children the proper socialization
techniques necessary for middle class

They socialize their children to be
members of the lower class

Since these youth have been socialized to
be part of the lower class, they frequently
have difficulty in school.

If lower class youth fail at school they will
not be able to obtain their goal of middle
class status and membership.

These youth form delinquent subcultures
and gangs.

In these gangs, youth develop their own
norms, values, and beliefs .

There were two goals that lower class
youth pursue:

Economic success

Middle class membership

There is both a legitimate and an
illegitimate opportunity structure.

The legitimate opportunity structure
involves education, hard work, and a
good occupation; not everyone has
access to this structure to obtain
economic success.

The illegitimate opportunity structure
includes stable criminal enterprises in
neighborhoods in which criminal
mentors exist to assist youth in becoming
successful criminals

A subculture is a group response to some
conflict with the dominant culture

Conflicts can arise from blocked
ambitions, general lack of guidance, or
the need to choose new goals in the face
of despair

Crime becomes an alternative to
achieving the “needs” dictated by

Upper class members tend to adapt by
engaging in white
collar crime.

Rebellion is the other adaptation. Rebellion
simply describes frustrated people deciding
to ignore society’s goals

The jazz subculture does not deny that marijuana is
illegal; rather, they rely on a common justification that
marijuana relaxes them and improves their music

Many hackers attempt to convince authorities
of the rightness of their actions. Confessions
are common, but usually take the form of

Social process theories focus on the
relationship between socialization and

Social process theories analyze the
impact of certain factors such as peer
group relationships, family relationships,
and failure in school on crime

People commit crime because they learn
the attitudes, skills, and rationalizations
necessary to commit these acts

Learning usually takes place in
interaction with parents and peers

The first learning theory to be presented
is Sutherland’s differential association

He argued that criminal behavior is a
function of learning, not the inability to
obtain economic success

He presented nine formal propositions which
demonstrate that social interaction and
learning leads to criminal activity:

Criminal behavior is learned

Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other
people in a process of communication

The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior
occurs with intimate personal groups

When criminal behavior is learned, the learning
includes (1) techniques of committing the crime, which
are sometimes very complicated, sometimes very
simple; and (2) the specific directions of motives, drives,
rationalizations, and attitudes

Nine formal propositions continued:

The specific direction of motives and drives is
learned from definitions of the legal codes as
favorable or unfavorable

A person becomes criminal because of an excess of
definitions favorable to violation of the law over
definitions unfavorable to violation of the law

Differential associations may vary in frequency,
duration, priority, and intensity

Nine formal propositions continued:

The process of learning criminal behavior by
association with criminal and anticriminal
patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are
involved in any other learning

While criminal behavior is an expression of
general needs and values, it is not explained by
those, since noncriminal behavior is an
expression of the same needs and values

The second learning theory to be
presented is Akers’ differential
reinforcement theory

Akers integrated differential association
and operant conditioning

People receive positive and negative
reinforcements for their behavior

A person’s behavior is controlled by the
rewards and punishments they receive
for their behavior

They argued that the process of
becoming a criminal is a learning

Most criminals hold conventional values,
norms, and beliefs, but must learn to
neutralize the values before committing

These same criminals hold values and
beliefs which state that criminal behavior
is wrong

There are five techniques of neutralization:

Denial of responsibility

Denial of injury

Denial of victim

Condemnation of the condemners

Appeal to higher loyalties

“Why don’t people commit crime?”

Social control theory assumes that
people will violate the law

The answer lies in the strength of a
persons ties to conventional people and

The theory identifies four motivating and
restraining forces for crime

Inner pushes and pulls lead an individual toward
committing crime

Inner containments inhibit criminal behavior

Reckless identified outer pressures and pulls which
lead to criminal behavior

Outer containments inhibit criminal behavior and
include forces that provide discipline and
supervision including parents, police, schools, and
the criminal justice system

Social process theories are probably best
when used to explain the crimes
committed by virus writers and those
who propagate and spread viruses

The first empirical observation to take
into account when examining the
phenomenon of why people engage in
virus writing is that there is no common
profile of a “typical” virus writer

A virus writer could be a teen or a 35
year old computer programmer

Can come from many walks of life and
are typically wealthy enough to afford the
computer machinery necessary

Not all virus writers are in it for the
money or the fame

Can be for money, fame, attention,
competition, and simply for a perverse
sense of fun

Terrorism always has a political agenda

The purpose of achievement is a specific
set of political objectives

term effects of terrorism involve an
immediate psychological effect on

The economic impact of the September

attack on the World Trade Center
Building (2001) was first estimated at a
real cost of just over $10 billion

Secondary costs are estimated to exceed $2

Karl Marx (1887) argued that political change
could not be achieved without conflict

This group, the vanguard, represented the
front lines of violent activity

It was the express purpose of the vanguard to
violently confront private property owners
and wealthy elites with the opposites
elements that maintained their ruling status

Franz Fanon argued that no government
would willingly give up power and wealth;
therefore, this power and wealth had to be
taken violently

Governments under attack must respond with
stricter measures against the general public
(the masses).

Since there is no clearly identifiable enemy,
governments must resort to more harsh and
brutal treatment of the indigenous population
in order to ferret out the hardcore vanguard

First, it can be argued that some
computer criminals commit their
offenses due to rational choice and a lack
of fear of apprehension

Second, it can be argued that restricted
moral development and the presentation
of a personality disorder may lead a
person to commit digital crime

Third, strain and subculture theories can
be applied to digital crime

Fourth, learning and social control
theories can explain some types of
digital crime as well

Fifth, political theory can be used to
explain acts of terrorism