Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Internet Purchasing: Perceptions and Experiences of Australian Households

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Internet Purchasing: Perceptions and Experiences of Australian Households

Article excerpt

There are few reliable national data on the habits and experiences of Australian householders using the internet. In the 2004 International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS), the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) canvassed a range of issues related to Australian householders and their access to the internet, including whether the internet was used to make purchases, the types of problems experienced in online purchases, and the types of distributed computer problems experienced. The survey provides some basic estimates of householder exposure to online purchasing problems and other credit card abuse. The data indicate that the monetary risk associated with online transactions is lower than for other credit card abuse, and that generally there are fewer problems associated with such transactions, but that problems associated with online transactions are increasing. It is likely that as online transactions increase, the number of victims will also increase, as will associated monetary losses. Educating individuals about the risks, and the need for preventative action, will be challenging for private and public sector agencies.

Toni Makkai


Fraud and internet crime are recognised as important issues for governments and private businesses worldwide. An area of growing concern is the impact of criminal activity on householders who use the internet. Householders use the internet at home for various purposes including work, education, leisure, communication, accessing government services and managing the household. The internet provides the means to perform a variety of specific tasks such as:

* managing banking and financial services

* obtaining information about rights and obligations from government

* researching information

* researching services and products

* communicating generally

* trading in goods and services.

Internet based services offer many advantages to providers and to users. Principal advantages are convenience, speed, accessibility, timeliness and cost effectiveness. Many computer applications were originally designed to deliver these advantages rather than providing high levels of security. The way in which householders use the internet has important implications not just for their own security but also for the security of other users. Security in this context is considered in two ways:

* the system being used by the householder, including the operating system and any applications in use

* the conduct of the online transaction encompassing the person or organisation at the other end of the transaction and the security measures used to protect identity and payment information during the course of the transaction.

Systems security

Initially favouring functionality over security, the operating systems that support internet applications were developed in ways that made them susceptible to attack or intrusion from other people using the same computer or on other computers communicating across a network. There are three typical ways of attacking other computers over a network. The first is to directly hack into a specifically targeted computer when it is connected to a network. The second is to distribute automated software such as viruses, worms and other malicious software across a network and opportunistically affect computers that are exposed on that network. The third is to use a computer or a series of compromised computers to specifically target another computer, as in a distributed denial of service attack.

There has been a transition from attacks on computers to the compromising of computers so that they can be used to attack other computers. Where a number of computers are compromised and can be remotely controlled by another user, this is referred to as a botnet. Botnets are used to effect a number of criminal actions or precursor actions to support criminal activity. Examples include harvesting of email accounts for spamming, the distribution of spam and the launching of distributed denial of service attacks. …

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