YOUTH’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS INTERNET CRIME: SOCIAL FACTORS, CAUSES, AND EFFECTS
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The penetration of information and communication technologies (ICT) has been on the increase in recent years across Africa (International Telecommunications Union [ITU] , 2008; Longe, Ngwa, Wada, Mbarika, & Kvasny, 2009). Although basic access to the internet in most parts of sub-Saharan
Africa still depends on public access points such as cybercafés; nations like Nigeria, Cameroon and
Ghana have facilities for mobile internet access through satellite connections and fibre optic cables (Longe et al., 2009). This increase in penetration of ICT, especially in West Africa, has spurred on growth in ICT-based businesses and services including electronic government, electronic commerce and electronic banking services. Unfortunately, the growth in the use of ICT has also raised the possibility of new criminal activities (Mbaskei, 2008; Plot, 2010).
The internet has become a double-edged sword providing opportunities for individuals and organisations and also bringing with it an increased information security risk (Magele, 2005). There exists an era of information technology renaissance. Desktop computers, as well as mobile devices such as: laptops, smart phones and tablets that are connected wirelessly, have easy access to corporate networks and information online. All these connectivity have made business environment incredibly
There is no doubt that internet has changed the way business is conducted. However, this change has come with associated risks, commonly referred to as internet crime. Internet crime is a term for any illegal activity that uses a computer as its primary means of commission (Halder & Aishankar, 2011).Also, the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography, stealing identities, or violating privacy.
Internet crime, especially through the internet, is usually common among youths. The African Union
(AU) defines a “youth” as any person between the ages of 15 and 35 years (Magele, 2005). For the purpose of this research, AU definition is accepted.
In Ghana, unlike the late 1990s were computers were assigned to and used by the rich minority class, today thanks to mass production and rapid rise in cheap second hand computers, many of the youths (whether employed or unemployed) are able to purchase computers at an affordable price tag. Even though few internet service providers have sprung up, provision of internet connectivity in both wireless and cable connection has made the use of computers among the youths very useful but as well problematic. As such, the use of computer to breach laws regarding internet crime among the youths has been the order of the day.
A latest notable reported case that occurred in Ghana was when Robert Wexler—a U.S. Congressman in Florida was communicated by a Ghanaian young man of age 27 in an attempt to blackmail Robert with information that was pilfered from Robert’s rejected internal hard drive that had had its way to Ghana through importation of used computer market (Abugri, 2011, as cited in Warner, 2011). This case is not unique and will never be untill appropriate measures have been adopted to clean up Ghana internet space. The study is part of this effort. It seeks to investigate the activities of the youths engaged in internet crime in the Ayawaso-East Constituency in order to suggest policies to deal with the menace before it gets out of hand.
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
Cases of online fraud pertaining to credit card crimes, contractual crimes, offering jobs, and advanced fee fraud have been fairly documented (Magele, 2005; Longe et al., 2009). A research conducted by Rivest, Shamir and Adleman (RSA) (2015) in 2014 revealed that the internet crime trend continues to increase as cybercriminals persistently adopts new efficient technology and profitable attack strategies. A study by Richardson (2008) disclosed that new technologies that cybercriminals capitalize on includes but not limited to system vulnerabilities, ignorance and gullibility on the part of users to perpetrate their heinous crimes. These approaches appear lucrative. Globally, financial losses occasioned by internet crimes in the United States alone increased dramatically from $52.5 million in 2006 to $67 million in 2007 (ITU, 2007). A study in Australia by the Attorney General’s Department of Australia disclosed that the non-governmental cost of internet crime is about 2 billion dollars annually
(Attorney General’s Department of Australia [AGDoA] , 2013). This means that, as cybercriminals are earning through their acts, there is a huge cost burden not only on individual victims but governments as well. There must be a better way to prevent this cost.
More than ever, the internet crime trends reported in 2015 by the RSA (2015) demonstrates a terrible trend: internet crime-as-a-service marketplace progressively and continually to mature; cybercriminals hunt for more bang for the buck and intensify large-scale retail as well as financial attacks; and internet crime threats continue to widen more targeted and much more advanced. In the year 2014, the RSA AntiFraud Command Center discovered approximately 500,000 cyber-attacks—averagely 11% increase year over year (RSA, 2015). The trend remains progressive because internet connectivity makes it much easier for criminals to act beyond national boundaries when conducting their illegal affairs. With over 200 countries connected to the internet and still counting, internet crime has become a global issue that requires a multi-stakeholder effort including governments, the private sector, civic and legal institutions, individuals and other social organizations (Westby, 2003; Broadhurst, 2006) to help maintain the positives of internet as we are all beneficiaries. In this modern world, internet crimes are within the reach of the youth in most communities, and this is fuelled on by the success of some individuals who are involved in it. This lure of richness, all made possible by just sitting behind a computer for long hours is one possible reason for the increment of internet crime. One other possible reasons including mass youth unemployment (Reingold, 1999).
Whilst the majority of young people today have access to the internet and computers another major associated issue is the lack of its proper usage. Even worse others do not have access or exposure at all which is now becoming a blessing in disguise. With inadequate supervision, the youth now resort to using the internet as a tool for many vile practices which are unlawful, illegal, fraudulent, harmful may also be connected with immoral activities such as streaming unhealthy videos that could lead the youth into immoral life style. The effect of these unwanted social conducts creates confusion in the economy, a threat to social lives and a hindrance to economic growth (Young Entrepreneurs Sphere, 2012).
Literature is, however, sparse on nation-specific extent of these fraudulent cyber activities as well as nation-specific measures put in place to address them. For instance, Ghana in 2008 was ranked among the top ten for the source of fraudulent cyber activities in the world with Nigeria ranking 3rd in the 2008 Internet Crime Report (ITU, 2009). A study by Warner (2011) also affirmed that, Ghana is now among the topmost ten countries engaged in the practices of internet crime. This unsavoury distinction is not something that needs to be entertained. To help the Ghana government counter and contribute to the global war against internet crime, an empirical investigation into internet crime practices in Ghana has become necessary.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study sought to address the following questions.
What are the factors that drive (push and pull) youths into internet crime?
How are the youth engaged in internet crime practices able to circumvent or protect themselves from the law and police arrest?
What is the state of police intelligence and policy development to deal with internet crime?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to investigate activities of the youths in internet crime. The following specific objectives were designed to achieve the main objective:
To explore the factors that drive (push and/or pull) youths into internet crime.
To examine the experiences of the youths engaged in internet crime.
To examine the state of intelligence and policy development of internet crime.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
There is limited academic work on internet crime in the developing and emerging economies. Most of the information on internet crime in these countries are heard or seen from the media. Considering the importance of ICT to the socio-economic advancement of the nation, it is time that many academic exercises were undertaken to provide a comprehensive evidence-based policy to deal with the problem.
The findings of the study will shed more light on combating online/internet fraud, as the study explores the security strategies that cybercriminals use to circumvent laws against internet crime or avoid police arrest.
The study will lead to a deeper understanding of various types of internet fraud available through an integrative review of dimensions of crimes committed online from a global perspective.
The findings of the research will serve as decision variables or input for policy makers. As the findings will based on an unadulterated information from people directly engaged in internet crime. Added to this, the study will make applicable policy recommendations based on the findings that policy-makers can adopt and apply with minimum efforts (cost).
The study will create more awareness in the minds of its readers, about how vulnerable people can be. Thus stems from the fact that, techniques that cybercriminals use will be made known and the counter measures will as well be available.