The anonymity internet users enjoy from the internet can be said to be one of the reasons people start computer crimes. Although we can agree that the main purpose of the policy of anonymity is simply to foster communication online and not for cybercrime; however, we have seen the abuse breed some antisocial behaviour and crimes.
Cyber-crime will be nearly impossible without anonymity as cybercriminals believe their identity is hidden and as such, cannot be traced. Just as technology advances, individuals, corporate organizations and government agencies depend on the internet to store personal details like bank information, residential address; perform simple and complex tasks as well as do some research. Cybercriminals will always attempt to steal such information as the cyberspace becomes more vulnerable, with the advancement in the technology space.
According to Wikipedia, cyber-crime is defined ‘as any crime that involves a computer/mobile phone and a network, either the computer is used in the commission of a crime or it is the victim of such crime with the sole motives of causing physical/mental harm or loss on the victim directly or indirectly’. Some examples of cybercrimes include; spamming, spoofing (identity theft), hacking, phishing web defacement, advanced free fraud (419 or Yahoo-yahoo), credit card fraud (ATM), online scamming, cyber-bullying, stalking, virus dissemination among others. These crimes are seriously eating deep into and are categorized into;
- When a computer is used as a tool for crimes e.g. fraud, stalking, child pornography, defamation, etc.
- When a computer is the victim of a crime e.g hacking, web defacement and computer virus.
- When a computer is used as an accessory to a crime e.g spamming, online scam, cyber-bully, spoofing etc.
Although not new, cybercrime is a rapidly growing trend. In a speech delivered by Dr Martin J. Oni, he defines cybercrime “as a product of wrong usage or the abuse of ICT or internet server”. Those cybercriminals are taking great advantage of the rise in online transactions, electronic shopping/messaging systems and e-commerce to perpetrate heinous and nefarious crimes–causing both physical/mental harm to their victims and this has both economic and social impact on individuals and world at large.
Economically, the effect of cybercrime cannot be over-emphasized. According to a report from the Central Bank of Nigeria, banks in the country lost N159billion to electronic fraud/cybercrime from 2000-2013, while bank customers in 2014 lost about N6 billion and N8 billion in Nigeria and South Africa respectively. During a Cyber-security Awareness Month held in Lagos in 2016, security experts stated that financial losses to cybercrime may rise to $6trillion globally by 2021. The financial losses also include the finances invested in cyber-security to curb the crimes.
Socially, victims of cybercrime may end up depressed, frustrated and in extreme cases, suicidal.
In a bid to curb cybercrime following a report from Daily Trust, (2010) – which revealed that Nigeria is now ranked third on the list of top ten sources of cybercrime in the world with 8% behind the US (65%) and the UK (9.9%) by the Internet Crime Complaint Centre, (which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and America’s National White Collar Crime Centre) – a Cybercrimes Act was passed into law in Nigeria to address the challenges in 2015. The law criminalized a variety of cybercrimes, for instance, imposing seven years imprisonment for offenders of all kinds and additional seven years for online crimes that result in physical harm, and life imprisonment for death cases and some million naira fines lesser cases.
However, the big issue is that cybercriminals are never prosecuted even when caught, either due to lack of concrete pieces of evidence or no report made at all. It has become a national threat. It is becoming worse of all crimes as the cybercriminals only sit in comfort of their bedroom committing serious unfathomable crimes with just the computer. So does this mean, that there’s no end to this menace? Or should we blame technology?