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Cyber Ethics

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Illegal Cyber Activities Technology is everywhere. Walk into a local Starbucks and connect any electronic device to the store’s Wi-Fi Network. Pick up a phone, touch the screen, and instantly be connected to the Internet, check an e-mail, or post to a social media website. Need directions? With satellites all around, it only takes a few seconds to find step-by-step instructions to a desired location. While all of these wonderful things make life easier, they can also turn that convenience into a web of nightmares. As the Internet continues to grow and as technology becomes more advanced, the need for regulation becomes more essential; otherwise, the Internet will become the perfect medium to get away with any crime imaginable. One of the biggest concerns individual people face when using the Internet is privacy. Almost every website has its very own log-in system with a unique username and password section. Not only that, but each website has different requirements for what kind of passwords can be used – some require uppercase letters, lower case letters, numbers and even a special character to make the passwords more secure. According to the University of Maryland’s Computer Science Department, “the best password is one that is totally random to anyone else” (Sanjour). Along with storing a username and password, most websites offer a bio section filled with name, date of birth, phone number and mailing address and even the option to save credit card information for future orders. Once a profile on that website gets hacked into, the criminal now has access to everything needed to make fraudulent charges, to ruin a person’s credit, or to seek out the victim at their own home. Internet crimes don’t just infringe on an individual’s privacy but on network’s privacies as well. The Internet is not just a one stop shop for information; it is “actually a combination of thousands of computer networks sending and receiving data from all over the world-competing interests joined together by a common purpose by no common owner” (Biagi 188). Unlike most businesses, the Internet itself does not have a specific organizational structure – there is no one person in charge of the whole thing. Each computer link, picture or map belongs to a different website, person or business, and thousands of new websites are created every single day! This complex of arrangement of data makes it incredibly challenging to govern illegal activity. Even if a governing system started to take shape, the technology used today will be completely different in a few years, making the government’s ability to regulate online activity nearly impossible. Without the safety that comes with strict regulations, more and more computer crimes are going to occur. The introduction of computers into society “has brought the legal system problems of new crimes and new ways to commit old ones” (Rosenberg 186). Computer crimes are becoming more frequent as well. News stories about a breach in security at major retailers, financial institutions, or college universities almost seems commonplace. The violations of these corporate systems allow criminals to access more than just usernames and passwords, but more private information like social security numbers, medical information, employment records, and income. Every time a corporate site gets compromised, millions of consumers suffer at the hands of cybercriminals. Along with hacking scandals at businesses, new forums for bullying, sexual abuse, discrimination and intimidation have all emerged with the frequent use of computers. Facebook, Craigslist, Instagram, Twitter, and numerous dating websites are all new targets for criminals to attack their victims. A disturbing trend with online sites is cyberbullying. Schools are full of tough guys and well-liked girls who used to have to make fact-to-face threats to their less popular peers. Now, with the use of electronics, these bullies can make threats any time of the day or night. A government website dedicated to stop this type of bullying states that “cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source” (StopBullying). The level of cyberbullying on a social media site can range from a one-time post filled with embarrassing flirting to constant and blatant sexual harassment posts meant to humiliate and intimidate the victim. Employers can also use these social media sites as a way to filter or discriminate against future applicants seeking employment. Once something has been published to the Internet, it becomes exceedingly difficult to get it deleted. So what can be done to safeguard personal and private information from cybercriminals? If the cybercriminal is interested in stealing personal information, the use of firewalls, encryption, and spyware software can all aid in stopping criminals before they can attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation lists six ways to protect a computer from intrusion: keep a firewall turned on, install or update antivirus software, install or update antispyware technology, keep the computer’s operating system up to date, be careful of items downloaded to the computer, and turn off the computer when it’s not in use (FBI). If the cybercriminal is a minor looking to harass another classmate, parents need be aware of online activity, know passwords, and establish rules while using technology. Sadly, for every safeguard put in place, there is a criminal trying to find a way to break through the security barrier; as technology advances, the diligence in trying to protect personal information must also advance. Illegal cybercrimes, specifically when it comes to the way personal information is handled or how individuals are treat, must be regulated with some sort of ethical standards for online activity. Every time a new website, a new cell phone app, or a new electronic device comes out, a new risk for being violated occurs. Although the Internet provides a limitless amount of information for those who use it wisely, when criminals hide behind the anonymity of untraceable cybercrimes, law enforcement agencies are forced to try and catch up. Until then, these criminals have the perfect system for doing illegal activity without a way of getting caught.

Works Cited Sanjour, Joe, Andrew Arensburger, and Anne Brink. “Choosing a Good Password.” https://www.cs.umd.edu. University of Maryland, 3 Oct. 2002. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
Biagi, Shirley. “Digital Media: Widening the Web.” Media/Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media, Enhanced. 9th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010. 188. Print.
Rosenberg, Richard S. “Computers and the Law.” The Social Impact of Computers. San Diego: Academic, 1992. 186. Print.
“What Is Cyberbullying.” www.stopbullying.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
“How to Protect Your Computer.” www.fbi.gov/scams-safety. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

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