General Categorisation

The fact that the word cyberspace has became a de facto synonym for the Internet is a dramatic example of the intimate relationship between technology and society. However, this intimate relationship between technology and society far predates the birth of the Internet and its associated technologies.

Generally, technology is heavily associated with tools and machines that may be used to achieve larger scale of practices, more efficiency and economy throughout human civilisation. From the Industrial Revolution to the 20th century, technologies, usually in the forms of large machines with manuals of instruction, have been commonly thought of as an external facilitator of human lives, propelling the process of modernisation. Berger et al. defined modernisation as "transformation of the world by technology'' (Berger et al. 1974, p. 15). They further clarified the relationship between modernisation and technology: "modernization, then, consists of the growth and diffusion of a set of institutions rooted in the transformation of economy by means of technology'' (Berger et al. 1974, p. 15).

During the process of modernisation, technology has transformed itself from being a tool, to a system, to a cultural force. Since the adaptation of large systematic technologies, the term technology could be understood as a system which consists of various physical components with complex and specific instructions that are formulated to solve problems or/and improve efficiency within a specific social context. Hughes (1989) understands the term technological system as a system that contains messy, complex and problem-solving components that are both socially constructed and society shaping. Technological systems could be classified into physical artifacts and human organisations (Hughes 1989). Physical artifacts include transformers and transmission lines in electric lights and power systems; human organisations include companies, banks, universities and legislative artifacts (e.g., regulatory laws) (Hughes 1989). This definition of technology has certainly extended the original understanding of it as tools/machines adopted by individuals to achieve large scale practices and more efficiency. Nevertheless, technology is still defined in terms of solving problems as a facilitator.   

Arguably, the role of technology as a facilitator has been transformed by the creation and privatisation of the Internet. The Internet and its associated technologies, marked by their pervasiveness, has eventually redefined technology as an integral part of human life. With the rise of various social software (social software is normally known as a range of web-based software programs that allow users to interact and share data with other users, such as MySpace, Facebook, Flicker, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, the Well, Second Life, etc.), it is increasingly difficult to separate the technological from the social. It is indeed the social applications and implications of software that have enabled the Internet to be an integral part of human society. Ellul had provided a notion of technology-human integration long before the creation of the Internet - "...when technique enters into every area of life, including the human, it ceases to be external to man and becomes his very substance. It is no longer face to face with man but is integrated with him, and it progressively absorbs him" (Ellul 1964, p. 6).  

Following this notion of technology, computer technologies could be naturally perceived as a cultural force. Actually, "Technology systems are socially produced. Social production is culturally informed. The Internet is no exception. The culture of the producers of the Internet shaped the medium" (Castells 2001, p. 36). Similar ideas may also be drawn from Bell's writings: "while Dani Cavallaro (2000: xi) writes of cyberculture as 'an environment saturated by electronic technology', we need also to read those technologies themselves as cultural - to look at 'ideas, experiences, and metaphors in their interaction with machines and material change' " (Bell 2001, p. 8). Indeed, the pervasiveness of the Internet and its associated technologies have not only enabled it to become an inseparable component of our daily lives, but also created a new culture, namely, cyberculture. Perhaps, there is no difference between cyberspace and cyber culture. Bell wrote: "Setting up a distinction between cyberspace and cyberculture is a false dichotomy, I think: cyberspace is always cyberculture, in that we cannot separate cyberspace from its cultural contexts" (Bell 2001, p. 8).

After acquiring an improved understanding of the intimate relationship between technology and society, especially the Internet and modern society, the set of deviant behaviours that are related to Internet and its associated technologies is classified into three categories:

1. Technological tool crime: traditional crimes in which the Internet and its associated technologies are used as tools.

2. Technological system crime: crimes that are committed to take advantage of the fact that systems of the Internet and its associated technologies are firmly integrated within various systems, institutions and organisations.

3. Technological culture deviance: deviant activities that occur in new contexts of cyberculture.

In the first category of offences, the technical capability of the Internet and its associated technologies is used to facilitate offending, whilst in the other two categories, the social contexts that are generated by the Internet and its associated technologies are used as breeding grounds for criminal offences and deviant behaviours.

In the first category, the term technology reflects the common understanding of it. It can be dated back to possibly 10,000 years ago, since the homo erectus' creation of stone tools and is best reflected by the creation of various machines during the Industrial Revolution. Like any other form of technology, the Internet and its associated technologies have become new tools for criminals to commit crime. Offences in this class include various kinds of serious organised crime, online pornography, online paedophilia, online drug trafficking, etc.     

In the second category, the term technology deals with the accumulation of human knowledge, hence, may be very broadly interpreted. Technological systems include "organizations, such as manufacturing firms, utility companies and investment banks; they incorporate components usually labelled scientific, such as books, articles, as well as, university teaching and researching programs. Legislative artifacts, such as regulatory laws, can also be part of technological systems" (Hughes 1989, p. 51). Logically, if a system has served its purpose with a degree of consistency and accountability, it may become a standard way of performing certain task. For example, the system of schooling has become a customary approach of pursuing an education and most of us still have enough trust in the banking system to automatically assign financial value to a cheque. The second category of offences focus on the breach of these trusted systems which are related to the Internet and its associated technologies, including viruses, financial fraud, unauthorised access/system penetration, theft of information, network abuse, theft of intellectual property (e.g., piracy), Denial of Service attack (DoS), misuse of public web application, website defacement, etc. Most of these offences are business related since computerised technologies are widely adopted in the system of commerce and breaches of system security have resulted in huge financial loss.   

The second category of cybercrime seems to be the focus of many computer/Internet related crime surveys and reports. Due to the absence of a standard definition of computer/Internet related crime, these surveys and reports tend to use different "functional definitions". In fact, the United Nations highlighted the problem of definition in its International review of criminal policy– United Nations Manual on the Prevention and Control of computer related Crime (United Nations 1999). It stated that "A global definition of computer crime has not been achieved; rather, functional definitions (in this case, functional definitions refer to practical and operational definitions) have been the norm" (United Nations 1999).

In the US, the CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey 2005 does not provide an explicit definition for cybercrime yet the results of this survey report demonstrate that it investigates crimes that can be included in our second categories of cybercrime:

  • System penetration
  • Virus attack
  • Denial-of-Service attack
  • Theft of proprietary information
  • Sabotage
  • Financial fraud
  • Insider abuse of net access
  • Laptop theft
  • Unauthorized access by insiders

In its Criminal Code Act 1995, the Australian government states that "High-tech crimes include: computer intrusions (e.g., malicious hacking); unauthorized modification of data, destruction of data; denial-of-service(DoS) attacks; and the creation and distribution of malicious software (e.g., viruses, worms, trojans)" (Criminal Code Act 1995, Part 10.7 Computer offence).

In the UK, the National Criminal Intelligence Service states in its UK Threat from Serious and organized Crime: "Hi-tech crime is the use of information and communication technology, particularly the Internet, to commit crime" (National Criminal Intelligence 2004/5-2005/6). This definition plays with the notion of circular logic and may appear to be tautological. Conversely, it is an insufficient functional definition, which only covers computer technologies-assisted offences, in which computer technologies are used as tools to commit crime - our first category. However, following the norm of having functional definitions, the document lists ten different types of 'hi-tech crime' that can be included in our second category of cybercrime:

  • Hacking
  • Virus
  • Worms
  • Trojans
  • Botnets
  • Denial-of-Service attacks
  • Criminal use of spam
  • Phishing
  • Identity theft
  • Hi-tech fraud
  • Intellectual property crime
  • Criminal communication of encryption

In the third category, the term technology is considered as a cultural force. The creation of cyberspace is an appropriate example of technology as a cultural force. The pervasiveness of the Internet and its associated technologies have enabled it to not only become an intrinsic part of our daily lives, but also create a new culture - cyberculture. Most of these activities that may be covered by this category, do not have, at least, clear legal status, such as cyber violence, cyber rape, cyber vandalism, cyber stalking, etc. This category of activities, therefore, demands different appraisals of the concepts of crime and community. In the first two categories, activities are defined as crime based on legal definitions of various government bodies. In the third category, perhaps, it may be more appropriate to define these unwanted acts as deviant behaviours, especially since different online communities have various criteria for determining whether an act is inappropriate based on the specific nature of each community. Moreover, in these communities, social orders that individuals take for granted in the really world, such as national, international jurisdictions and 'normal' laws - evaporate. Deviant activities in cybercommunities may be classified into two categories: deviance against the person and deviance against community cohesion.

Victoria Wang