By definition, cyber-crime occurs in "cyberspace.” Where, exactly, is "cyberspace"? What are some examples of cyber-crime? Is catching cyber-crime like lassoing a cloud?
1. Where, exactly, is "cyberspace"?
According to U.S. government definitions of cyberspace as reported in the CRS report "Cybercrime: Conceptual Issues for Congress and U.S. Law Enforcement" (2015), cyberspace is the "virtual environment of information and interactions between people" ongoing in "the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures." This information technology infrastructure consists of "the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries." Cyberspace is a "constructed world" that can be "controlled or altered by man." It is "a fabrication ... a construct, cyberspace is mutable," an environment that can be "modified and transformed" (CRS report).
In other words, cyberspace is the function of electronic activities and transactions involving communication and exchanges between people and modifications and transformations of the "interdependent network" proceeding at all times, via the inter-connectivity of cyber-infrastructures, and traversing across the street, across the state, across the nation, across the globe. Cyberspace is "where" the components of the infrastructure are; it is "where" a transaction begins in one electronic device and "where" it terminates in other electronic devices; it is "where" the electronic signal traverses during any electronically commanded action. Cyberspace is that virtual environment through which electronic command signals traverse, and it is bordered by the physical infrastructure components that begin, continue and end electronic actions.
6. What are some examples of cyber-crime? Is catching cyber-crime like lassoing a cloud?
There are many types of cyber-crime, with the fastest growing one being identity theft, according to law enforcement. South African law defines cyber-crimes as "any criminal or other offence that is facilitated by or involves the use of electronic communications or information systems, including any device or the Internet or any one or more of them" (Electronic Communications and Transactions Amendment Bill, 2012). Crime-Research.org uses the definition "crimes committed on the internet using the computer as either a tool or a targeted victim." Some examples of cyber-crime are: point-of-sale (POS) skimming, online child pornography (CRS report), fraud and transferring proceeds of fraud, downloading disruptive programs such as viruses and spyware, online harassment and bullying (uslegal.com).
Since cyber-crime has an agent and a victim in a physical, real, geographical location--even though the location of the cyber criminal may be disguised and routed through many electronic cyber-byways--catching cyber-crime is not like lassoing a cloud. Each cyber-crime and criminal falls under some definition of crime and some jurisdictional authority. While it is true, as governments agree, that specific universal definitions of cyber-crime are not yet established and that there are "jurisdictional challenges" (CRS report), the agent and the victim--whether a computer or a person is the victim in any given cyber-crime--have physical locations during the event of the crime. These locations provide groundwork for untangling jurisdictional authority and cyber-crime definition challenges on a case-by-case basis.
Despite criminals exploiting virtual space, the criminal actor and the victim(s) are located in the real world—though often in different cities, states, or even countries. Similarly, the digital technologies used to facilitate these crimes, such as Internet servers and digital communication devices, are located in physical locations that may not coincide with the locations of the criminal actors or victims. As such, law enforcement faces not only technological but jurisdictional challenges in investigating and prosecuting cyber criminals. (CRS report)
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