If Most Crime Involves A 'Cyber' Element, Can't We Just Call It Crime Instead Of Cybercrime?

from the scary-scary-internet dept

It is a standing modern truth that you can take a scary word in the English language and turbocharge its terror factor by putting the word “cyber” in front of it. Don’t believe me? Murder. Some guy stabs or shoots me. Cyber-murder. Holy crap! A dude can reach through the computer and electrocute my face! The problem, as we’ve discussed previously, is that many of the supposed facts used to hype cybercrime are massively overstated, and the unfortunately resulting hysteria breeds atrocities like The Patriot Act, because computers are terrifying and apparently the government is not. Of course, it doesn’t end with crime. Cyberwar, cyber-terrorism, these words now permeate the bloodstream like terrifying nanobots, all while the use of technology and the internet marches forward at incredible rates.

But is the term “cybercrime” even useful anymore? When NYC district attorneys like Manhattan’s Cyrus Vance suggest that pretty much all crime includes a cyber element, can’t we just drop the scare words and go back to calling it “crime?”

According to Vance, cybercrime isn’t just a growing trend—it’s a fundamental shift in the way modern crime works. It has already reached a point where nearly every crime in the city involves a cyber component.

“It is rare that a case does not involve some kind of cyber or computer element that we prosecute in our office—whether it is homicide, whether it’s a financial crime case, whether it’s a gang case where the gang members are posting on Facebook where they’re going to meet,” said Vance.

It seems to me that just because there is a small element in a murder that involves a computer, that doesn’t make it cybercrime, but that’s apparently how it’s being reported at the DA’s office. This, of course, allows federal agencies like DHS and the CIA to get involved, where they, otherwise, would not.

The city is getting help from the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, local businesses, and others. This system of cooperation was actually set up in 2001 when President George W. Bush signed the PATRIOT Act into law. It established the Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) under the Secret Service. According to the Secret Service website, “The concept of the ECTF network is to bring together not only federal, state and local law enforcement, but also prosecutors, private industry and academia.”

I wouldn’t want to necessarily suggest that having the alphabet agencies get involved at some level is always going to be a bad thing, but perhaps it is time we all had a conversation about how we, as citizens, want to be policed in America. That question is going to dovetail into whether or not we want scare-words like “cyber” to result in law enforcement evolving away from the local level to the federal level. For a country that bangs the “get government out of our lives” drum so frequently, often from the party that spawned The PATRIOT Act no less, we seem quite willing to let irrational fear dominate us.

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Comments on “If Most Crime Involves A 'Cyber' Element, Can't We Just Call It Crime Instead Of Cybercrime?”

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Ninja (profile) says:

For a country that bangs the “get government out of our lives” drum so frequently, often from the party that spawned The PATRIOT Act no less, we seem quite willing to let irrational fear dominate us.

+insightful for that.

When a republican does all that grandiloquent speech sanctifying a smaller Government throw the Patriot Act at their faces. It is nothing but a steady increase of Govt size and meddling where it shouldn’t be.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Agreed. I should have noted that. There’s an idiomatic expression in Portuguese that fits pretty well here and I won’t know the similar in English but you are basically stuck between the bad and the worse. I should add that most of the world is in the same situation regardless of how many choices there are. Pirate Parties are some sort of light amidst all the chaos. I wonder if they’ll actually manage to be meaningful now that they got past the birth phase. I’m more than willing to give them a shot.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Re:

True ! Republicans believe in Smaller Government is a lie………they believe in Restricting your life and forcing you to be just like them in their Far Right World.
I read a bunch of News and the Worst Bills are being Proposed by them over and over.
Just read about a Republican in Iowa who has a Bill going that would End Forms of Divorce.So they say Smaller government and then in Iowa they want to get into your private Marriage and tell you when you can Dissolve it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So if he ate a Twinky while at it then it’s a Twinkymotorcybercrime? Or if he did a pit stop at Burguer King for a Whooper then killed someone after that then it’s a Whoopingcrime? Or would that classification be more fitting of a crime where the criminal got the inspiration from a movie featuring Whoopi Goldberg?

When I imagine Congress legislating all these complex types of crimes.. I understand a lot of things.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, that way when there is a rise in twinkymotorcybercrime, we can know what to target to reduce that kind of crime*, be afraid of twinkies, or know that anyone eating a twinky while driving is a potential twinkymotorcyber criminal.

*It’s easier to target the twinky, cyber, or motor elements than it is to target the crime element.

artp (profile) says:


If CyberMicrosoft had never released CyberWindows, then the Internet would have never had the level of CyberSpam and CyberViruses that it has today, and people wouldn’t think it was CyberNormal to have all this CyberCrap happening to their PCs.

No wonder they’re scared.

Note: CyberFUD refers to the overuse of the prefix “cyber-“, not to the article.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: CyberFUD

yeah, i like the idea of over saturation of it like coarse language, that is… use it until EVERYONE is sick of it and stops using it because it not longer has any effect. think of the cyberchildren that will grow up to be cyberpatriots and work for either the the cybergovernment or cyberfeds.

Tehrm (profile) says:

Doublespeak is effective

Doublespeak is as effective as it is ancient.

The fear of ‘the other’ shapes community policy in nearly every social-cooperative species (ant colonies, ape communities, etc.). It happens that we wise bipeds have cannibalized its evolutionary utility for social survivalism.

“Cyber” hints at precise description, but remains ambiguous enough for the majority public to create their own monster from it. Cultures of simpler cosmology fear magic, the power to manipulate that which cannot (or should not) be controlled. “Cyber” is the magic of our culture.

::Cue Arthur C. Clarke::

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Credit and Debit Cards.

Well, my impression was that Vance was largely talking about things like credit/debit cards and identity theft.

My view is that the banks are going to have to spend some money. That is, put a computer inside every credit/debit card, capable of functioning as a cypher machine to establish a secure connection with the bank. Give each customer a “docking station” to use at home, capable of plugging into a computer (via a USB port) or into a telephone jack. This docking station to have its own keypad and calculator-grade display, and maybe a bar-code reader, plus, of course, its own computer, unique serial number, and codes. Even better, put the display in the card, instead of the docking station. I don’t think all of this is going to be very expensive, ten dollars per customer should cover it. The idea is to have a separate little secure box, which doesn’t have the inherent security risks of more complex systems. The docking station can be used to give subsidiary accounts to laptops, smart-phones, etc., but these are of restricted privilege. For example, your laptop does not have “need to know” to get cash from a money machine. The kind of thing you would be doing on your laptop would be internet-shopping, and placing an order for delivery to an address the bank already knows about, specifically your home address. The proper function of a PIN number is fairly limited, as a check against physical robbery. It shouldn’t be asked to do much more. Once you undertake a program of cryptographic hardening, the identity theft problem should go away for the most part.

Mike Zajko says:

I’m very curious about the future of this prefix since I’ve been spending my time looking at the curious world of cyber talk. I’m convinced it’s increasingly redundant in all sorts of domains, but this becomes most apparent when we start using a new prefix for non-cyber practices that previously didn’t need one. The best example is the rise of “kinetic” in the military for anything that isn’t “cyber” (which has now swallowed up anything involving the use of a computer or even a radio).
Just as kids today are increasingly not differentiating online/offline like previous generations, the cyber distinction will keep getting more ridiculous for those who cling onto it. And I won’t get started on “cyberspace” other than to say that 80s scifi imaginings of the virtual are not helpful (unless you need to justify a new “strategic domain” to “operate in” or “dominate”).
But language sticks around all the time past its expiry date – either through the weight of cultural inertia, or by being reinterpreted to fit a new context. My guess is cyber will be around for a while, but we’ll start to see it being dropped as a qualifier for some topics over the next ten years.

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