The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. - Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Intro: Computer crimes and the legal system

The last 30 years have seen inimaginable technical advances in the fields of computers and communication technology. The development of Internet has radically transformed mankind, allowing almost instant communication and long distance cooperation between individuals, companies, institutions and governments. Computers and Internet have become part of the daily work of bilions of individuals.

More, expansion of businesses on the Internet and through the Internet, online shopping and Internet payment methods has lead to appearance and development of a whole new economic sector who's existence and activity depends solely on the stability of the Internet climate.

But the benefits of this new type of interaction and cooperation based on the Information Technology and the world-wide-web, have also brought new types of anti-social and criminal activities and threats who pose new and yet to be solved problems to the national and regional legal systems.

The new medium is forcing a response from the legal systems that cannot anymore be done solely through classical methods of investigation and prosecution, but through new and innovative ways.

We are talking here about crimes that generally fit into the cybercrime or computer related crimes category - a type of criminal activities that causes significant losses worldwide - and which have their own special characteristics different from those of the classical crimes, requiring a fast response and evolution of the national legal systems, as well as new international cooperation mechanisms. Some of these characteristics are:
  • technical aspects and specific technical language involved in proving these crimes and bringing them to justice - law enforcement agencies and courts have to deal with countless technical aspects and a quite strong language barrier.
  • electronic evidence is volatile - computer and network data are extremely volatile, being easy to miss or compromise, thus endangering the investigations and requiring the capability of fast response from the law enforcement bodies.
  • cross-border nature of computer crime - a computer crime can be initiated from a country, use facilities from other countries and have victims in several other countries or continents - bringing them to justice require very good cooperation between law enforcement agencies world-wide and adequate procedures and international cooperation instruments.
  • large numbers of computer related crimes possible at a certain moment - in some cases law enforcement bodies have to limit their investigations only to cases which result in a certain level of losses.
  • difficulty of identifying the criminals beyond any doubt  - computers are everywhere, in every office and every household, as well as the public access terminals and hotspots thus a large number of individuals accessing the same computer makes tying the crime to a certain person a dificult task.
  • lack of education of the general public regarding minimal technical measures of self-protection and conduct when accessing the Internet.
All these characteristics and many others, pose significant challenges to legal systems worldwide.

Why ?

This is the English language version of the a legal blog initially intended for the Romanian general public and Romanian specialists involved in fight against cybercrime. This specific version will contain translations of some of the legal articles published in Romanian, as well as specific articles in English.

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