The Difficult Battle Against Cybercrime

The debate over the Internet policy often comes down to the trade-off of safe versus free. Loosen Internet regulations will expose us to greater vulnerability for cybercrimes, but a heavy-handed control will inevitably sacrifice our freedom of speech online. Therefore, as listed  in the WGIG issue paper on Network and Information Security, policymaking in this area is a very delicate art of finding the perfect balances for important issues including “Economics on Network and Information Security, Privacy versus Accountability/Security, Accountability/responsibility of industrial agents, Closed versus open standards for security enabling technologies, Assurance and certification.”

Cybercrime is only a distant word to me until I personally experienced “identity theft” and learned it the hard way. A couple of years ago, just several months after I moved to the U.S., my parent woke me up with a phone call at 4 in the morning. It turned out my QQ (an very popular online instant messenger in China) account had been stolen and hijacked for money scams. Ironically, because I have almost abandoned QQ for a long time, once the “fake me” got online, many of my friends started chatting with him/her and were told I needed money for an emergency. Before I found out, two of my friends had already transferred a large amount of money into some stranger’s account. Even more astonishing is, because the scammer were able to viewing my previous chat logs (which were conveniently stored online for them), he/she were able to talk about my life in DC and even mimic my tone. All of these made the request of lending money sound very reasonable for my poor friends.

Sadly now two years has passed, the case never got solved. When the police were involved, the first thing they told my friends was cases like this are very hard because the money usually is transferred to an “unrelated” oversea account right away and it’s almost impossible to trace.  

On that note, the effort on cybersecurity is a global issue that has to involve multi-stakeholders because like other Internet activities, many of the crimes online tend to go beyond borders. Ideally, it would be helpful to tackle down international cybercrimes if all the parties (both states and non-states) could agree on major issues and keep the regulations relatively consistent. But since every country has its own social economical and political condition, in reality, cybercrimes that trans-national boarders are especially difficult to deal with.

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