Posts Tagged With: crime

Most wanted: The name without a face

State Records NSW. Flickr. February 4, 2011.

State Records NSW. Flickr. February 4, 2011.

The proliferation of web-enabled crimes and criminals has prompted employee training by companies managing proprietary, privileged, and confidential information.  Seemingly slang terms like phishing, spoofing, and smishing have become professional jargon.  Communities are just beginning to resolve questions of legality and jurisdiction.  If those issues weren’t a sufficient challenge, the anonymity permitted by these crimes prevents even victims from identifying the perpetrators.

Unlike violent crimes, possession and use of a firearm or knife isn’t needed for web-enabled crimes.  Superior physical strength or an intimidating demeanor isn’t required, either.  Unlike conventional low-skilled white collar crimes like fraudulent check cashing or retail theft, there’s no need to show one’s face in public.  Even more, the skills needed for web-enabled crimes can be self-taught.  There’s no need for a college degree in accounting or finance to commit postmodern white collar crimes.  Identity theft can be lucrative and accomplished just by social engineering scams.

What’s the future of crime?  Will shoplifting, purse-snatchings, and, even, retaliatory drive-by shootings disappear?  After all, the risk of incarceration or death is greatly reduced by the camouflage of a computer screen.  Online shopping with someone else’s credit card can be accomplished far away from the surveillance of department store security guards.  Obtaining those credit card numbers requires only deceptive email messages, not loitering on darkened streets in isolated areas.  Instead of purchasing and using an unregistered handgun, gang members need only begin an online campaign against a chosen victim.  Names and incriminating video evidence can be posted anonymously.  What could be a better revenge against an enemy than his or her lengthy prison sentence?

Our perceptions of the safety of the web would be rudely and permanently dismissed by increasing news reports of virtual crimes.  For law-abiding people, though, the retreat of criminals from the streets would dramatically change the routines of daily life.  Nightlife could include people of all ages and inclinations.  Firefly chasing, outdoor night basketball games, and all night porch chatting might add some respectability to club hopping and partying.  Early risers could safely meditate in parks.  Families could leave gates and doors unlocked.  Community would again become local blocks rather than international chat rooms or social media.  Criminals, not neighbors would become the faceless strangers to be mistrusted. Serenity would reign.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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Virtual life: The end of street crime?

Alan Cleaver. Flickr. May 16, 2009

Alan Cleaver. Flickr. May 16, 2009

Now that more and more shopping, education, and working occur on the web, what is the future of theft, robbery, and burglary?  If shoppers, students, teachers, professors, mothers, fathers, and employees never have to leave the security of their homes, will pickpockets, muggers, and bank robbers starve?  Will police officers stop patrolling the streets and spend all of their time on desk duty?  Some criminals have risen to the challenge by developing innovative methods to exploit information technology.  Probably, most of us are aware of phishing and identity theft.  Still, firewalls and passwords to protect the virtual shopping mall, grocery store, high school, university campus, and corporate office are becoming more sophisticated.  Will thieves find it more profitable to become soldiers of fortune, professional athletes, stock brokers, or real estate developers?

Perhaps, they will develop the security technologies of the future.  Fingerprint readers in lieu of computer passwords are already economically available to home computer users.  Audible and visual alarms embedded in virus protection software may increase the attentiveness of users to warnings about potentially harmful web sites.  The use of encrypted email and video conferencing may become routine.  To prevent burglary, wireless alarm systems are already easily and inexpensively installed in residences.  Dogs may become even more popular as living, breathing, loyal, and unpaid body guards.

Their company as well as the absence of traffic may prompt long walks.  Even in cities, walkers might enjoy views of the stars as telecommuters, home schoolers, and home shoppers won’t need street lights.  Even skyscrapers might rise from lush gardens and orchards; parks would then become obsolete.  For children, their entire community would constitute their backyard.  For those missing their long daily commutes, Google Earth or video game companies would offer virtual highway travel with traffic congestion and speed traps.  Most of us, though, would probably be glad to have an extra hour to sleep every morning.

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