Cybercrimes are really a misnomer. Every cybercrime has some physical environment. Criminal intrustions are launched from one or locations(initially, at least), money is stolen from an account that has a physical location, people are targeted and they reside and work somewhere in real life. All cybercrimes either start in the digital world (through an email telling you that you won $50 million in the Nigerian lottery), offline (with someone trying to sell you a stolen vehicle on an online ad site) or start, operate and end in cyberspace (conning you into sharing your banking information, login and passwords and stealing your IS and money).
By stepping back a bit you can spot the real life connections and won’t have to look for new and sony cyberlaws. Most real life laws apply to cybercrimes and abuse. Just start by looking to the offline piece. The real issue isn’t finding a law that applies. It’s figuring out where law enforcement have jurisdiction and authority and how they can find out who is behind those crimes. Investigation is a serious challenge for police trying to patrol local neighbors. That’s where WiredSafety’s role as a cyber-neighborhood watch comes in. The more groups like ours can educate volunteers and the public to spot cybercrimes, scams and creeps and report them, the faster we will succeed.
Law enforcement agencies and officers are facing more challenges than ever before. They are working with reduced budgets and expected to do more. In addition to street crimes and prevention programs, we now expect them to address bullying, cyberbullying, Facebook account takeovers and hacking. They have to figure out how to handle preteens who take topless pictures and text them to senior boys. Every day new technologies and devices bring new risks and challenges to the professionals charged with protecting communities. These are the new police responsibilities. When offline cops meet online crimes, we call them “cyberlawenforcement” officers. And, as part of its primary mission, WiredSafety is committed to making their jobs easier and being here to help when they need us.
Although many cybersafety groups look alike when you see us delivering quick sound bytes on TV or read our short quotes in magazines and newspapers, we are very different when you look more closely. Some are dedicated to providing curriculum for schools; others do industry summits or work on only one issue. WiredSafety does it all and more. We are dedicated to helping users of all ages avoid becoming victims of cybercrimes or abuse and empowering them to use the digital technologies in safer and more responsible ways. We work closely with leading industry members, government policymakers and law enforcement. WiredSafety provides training and briefings for members of law enforcement and helps them when new technologies are released. And our WiredCops division (limited to active and retired law enforcement officers) is being revamped to deliver more of what you need using easier to access technologies.
Need resources for school presentations? Hoping to learn more about cyberlaws and sexting, cyberbullying and cyberstalking? Not sure how to interpret a case of cyberharassment, or prepare a first responder checklist? Challenged by Facebook and need assistance with an investigation? Need to reach a network in an emergency after-hours? WiredSafety and our resources and assistance team for WiredCops can help. Be prepared to prove that you are an active member of law enforcement authorized to conduct the inquiry. Our law enforcement liaisons will respond as soon as we can. Interested in volunteering with us? We welcome your help!
Criminal Justice Professionals and Counsel
As judges and magistrates grapple with cyberabuse and cybercrimes, they sometimes reach out for our thoughts. Parry Aftab, WiredSafety’s Executive Director, was one of the founders of cyberlaw in 1994 and often advises policymakers, and criminal justice professionals in the latest trends and what court rulings can be enforced by the use of digital technologies. The new take on “restorative justice” developed by Parry called “Clean Up the Mess You Made” can be very effective when considering alternative justice approaches. Probation and parole options can help ensure that users online are safer from further harassment and attacks. Reach out to Parry Aftab directly, using our contact Parry link. Our team of Legal Eagles keeps our legal advisories current to help you know what you need to know to do your job better and deliver on the promise of justice.
Law, Cybercrime and Cyberlaw
There ought’a be a law! And while many Internet users think there are no laws that cover online activity, they are wrong. There are laws – lots of them! And you can end up in jail for breaking them just as easily as for breaking the more traditional laws, so it’s good to know what they are. Most laws that apply in the real world (offline), also apply online. The trick is knowing which ones apply to you based on where you are, where the criminal or harasser is and what service you are using. It may also depend on where your service provider’s servers are located (which could be anywhere in the world). Just remember that there are at least three parties to all digital communications – you, the recipient/sender and the service provider. For example, Verizon Wireless has a copy of all text messages you send through their network. And if you send a text from an AT&T Wireless account to a Verizon Wireless subscriber, both have a copy.
And, with each different player comes a different possible set of laws.
Laws cover the 4Cs – Contact, Content, Commercialism and Conduct. They may prevent a website from dealing directly with preteens without parental permission. They prohibit the use of copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder (with a few exceptions). Depending on where the seller resides and where the buyer does, consumer protection laws may govern purchases, sales and services online. Intrusions, ID theft, destruction of real or virtual property, threats of serious bodily harm or death, cyberstalking and cyberharassment, fraud, scams are all crimes in most jurisdictions, just as they are offline.
The problem isn’t whether or not a law applies, it’s whether or not local law enforcement agencies understand how they apply and how to conduct a cyber-investigation. It’s knowing where to report it and how to obtain justice. It’s finding out who is behind an online persona or account. But, even with all these challenges, the more you understand the laws that protect you and can punish criminals online, the safer you will be.