Emerging Areas in Criminal Law

The rapid development in technological know-how, rising globalization, and the proliferating growth of global markets have created umpteen opportunities for criminal activities, coupled with a low risk of detection and usage of new modes of anonymity. Of late, countering and fighting new and emerging crimes has become quite a challenging task.

Crime is incessantly evolving and adapting. While organized crime, illegal drug trafficking and terrorism have been the primary areas of concern for the last two decades, other modes of criminal activities are now gradually emerging, such as cybercrimes, sexual exploitation of children, environmental crime and trafficking in cultural property along with piracy, an old crime that has resurfaced. These crimes may not impact all nations in the world at the same rate or with equal severity, but what they have in common is that by the time they are identified as a global threat, they may already have done extensive damage. Factors that may contribute to the emergence of these crimes include globalization, poverty, conflict and fragile rule of law to high value markets, and the sudden emergence of novel methods of modern technology and global connectivity.

About a billion people use the Internet globally. Thus, it enables worldwide connectivity among individuals across a wide geographic area, which is also being effectively used for criminal activities. Novel criminal trends have surfaced, with people committing crimes in cyberspace that they would have otherwise refrained from. The anonymity of the Internet and the probability of embracing flexible identities can act as incentives for criminal behavior.

Criminals can gain access to humongous numbers of targets via online services such as banking, shopping, and social networking. Global connectivity also implies criminals can learn from one other, even if they never meet. Online criminal ‘social networking’ can provide various modes of criminal ‘outreach’ and links between criminal groups. A wrong notion of social acceptability of criminal acts, such as child sexual exploitation, can be created by online communities.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are driving novel and emerging crimes in different ways. Consumer financial fraud has become global with the routine use of online payments. Cybercrime is one of the emerging areas in criminal law. It includes the following:

1. Theft of Electronic Information:
This includes information stored in computer hard disks, removable storage media, etc. Theft may be committed either by physical misuse of the data or manipulating it through any virtual medium.

2. Email Bombing:
This kind of activity comprises sending a huge volume of emails to the victim, which may be an individual or a company or even mail servers. This kind of activity is aimed at ultimately crashing the system or the data.

3. Data Diddling:
This form of attack involves manipulating raw data just before a computer processes it and then modifying it back after the processing is complete. The electricity department confronted a similar problem of data diddling during computerization of the department.

4. Salami Attacks:
This kind of crime is generally widespread among financial institutions and is committed to perpetuate financial crimes. A critical element of this type of crime is that the modification is so minute that it usually goes unnoticed.

5. Virus Attacks:
Viruses are programs that embed themselves to a computer or a file and then distribute themselves to other files and other computers on a network. They usually impact the data on a computer, either by modifying or deleting it. Worms, unlike viruses, do not require the host to attach themselves to a computer or a file. They just make functional copies of themselves and do this incessantly until they consume all the available space on a computer’s memory. For instance, the ‘love bug’ virus, which affected at least 5% of the computers worldwide. The losses were estimated to be $10 million. The world’s most notorious worm was the Internet worm unleashed on the Internet by Robert Morris sometime in 1988, which almost brought the development of Internet to a screeching halt.

6. Logic Bombs:
These are programs that depend on events. This implies that these programs are created to do something only when a ‘specific event’ (known as a ‘trigger event’) occurs. Some viruses may be called ‘logic bombs’ because they are inactive throughout the year and get activated only on a specific date (such as the Chernobyl virus).

7. Trojan Attacks:
This term originates from the word ‘Trojan horse’. In software field, this implies an unauthorized program, which inertly gains control over another system by portraying itself as an authorized program. The most common form of installing a Trojan is via e-mail. For instance, a Trojan was installed in a woman film director’s computer in the U.S. while chatting with her online. The cyber-criminal obtained her nude photographs through the web cam installed in the computer and then blackmailed the woman.

8. Web Jacking:
This term is derived from the term ‘hijacking.’ In web jacking, the hacker gains access and control over another person’s website. He may even damage or modify the information on the site. This may be done for satisfying political objectives or for financial gains. Thus, web jacking is a process whereby the control over another person’s website is obtained so as to extract some consideration to release it from such control.

The level of advancement of emerging crimes poses a great challenge equally to the well-equipped States and progressive countries with limited resources. Globally unifying legislation will help to prevent and fight emerging crimes, and there may be a need to design innovative ways of enhancing global electronic connectivity for investigative purposes. Globalization and new technological developments will propel criminal innovation ahead. Confronting this challenge will necessitate constant and persistent endeavors to prevent and minimize corruption, to ensure sustainable livelihoods, and to resolve issues of poverty and inequality.

1. New and Emerging Forms of Crime: Threats the World Must Reckon With,”, April 12-19, 2015.
2. Imran, Mohd., “Emerging Trends in Cyber Crimes in India: An Overview,” August 4, 2016.


More by :  P. Mohan Chandran

Top | Computing

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