Crime and the Internet

Crime and the Internet

Crime and the Internet

Crime and the Internet


Is the internet really powerful enough to allow a sixteen year old to become the biggest threat to world peace since Adolf Hitler? Are we all now susceptible to cyber-criminals who can steal from us without even having to leave the comfort of their own armchairs? These are fears which have been articulated since the popular development of the internet, yet criminologists have been slow to respond to them. Consequently, questions about what cybercrimes are, what their impacts will be and how we respond to them remain largely unanswered. Organised into three sections, this book engages with the various criminological debates that are emerging over cybercrime. The first section looks at the general problem of crime and the internet. It then describes what is understood by the term 'cybercrime' by identifying some of the challenges for criminology. The second section explores the different types of cybercrime and their attendant problems. The final section contemplates some of the challenges that cybercrimes give rise to for the criminal justice system.


The Internet is one of the greatest sensations of recent times. It has become a symbol of our technological ingenuity and offers humankind an awesome array of benefits. However, the thrill of those prospects has been accompanied by public fears about the potential scale of criminal opportunities that can arise. Fears, which, in the absence of reliable information to the contrary, have been nurtured and sustained by media sensationalism. Yet, our practical experience of the Internet is that few of these fears have actually been realised. Furthermore, there is clearly emerging a body of evidence to show that the criminal reality of the Internet is not the all engulfing “cyber-tsunami”, but, like the terrestrial world, a large range of frequently occurring small-impact crimes.

One could argue that criminologists have been slow to explore these emerging fears and new criminal behaviours, and engage in debate about them in order to develop useful bodies of knowledge that could enlighten the public and provide the basis for informed policy. In the criminologists' defence, however, it could be argued that there is wisdom in exercizing caution and in waiting for reliable trends of behaviour to emerge. But in the first years of the new millennium, the questions about what cybercrimes are, what their impact will be and how we should respond to them remain largely unanswered: the time for understanding is now.

The origins of this collection go back to two conferences. The first was the 14th Annual conference of the British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association, held in York, UK, in 1999. This conference successfully brought together an international group of academics, practitioners (mainly police and lawyers) policy-makers and cyber-libertarians. The second was the cybercrime stream at the British Society of Criminology Conference, held in Leicester in July 2000, whose seven panels acted as a focal point for criminologists interested in the impact of information technology. As the collection took shape, a number of further contributions were added.

My thanks go to the cast of contributors for their efforts: after all, it is their ideas, hard work and excellence which make this book possible. They are, in order of appearance: Ken Pease, Peter Grabosky and Russell Smith, Mike Levi, Paul Taylor, Bela Chatterjee, Marjorie Heins, Yaman Akdeniz, Louise Ellison, Matt Williams, Paul Norman and Clive Walker.

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