Friday, November 16, 2012

Computer addiction and cybercrime

Topic - Some mental health and criminal justice professionals contend that hacking is an "addiction," and causes obsessive, risk taking behavior in a manner similar to illegal narcotics - hackers hack to "get high" from the thrill of breaking into a system and getting away with it. Should policymakers look towards treatment, rather than incarceration, as the disposition of hacker cases? Why or why not?

Just as chemical addicts develop a tolerance and require a stronger drug to get their high, cybercriminals exhibit a similar pattern in the evolution of their habit. Many beginners start with attacking DRM and pirating, but then start to escalate. (Campbell & Kennedy, 2009)

Successful treatment is possible, as shown by “some reformed computer criminals … were able to focus their skills on practical endeavors instead of illicit undertakings” (Campbell & Kennedy, 2009, pp. 12-3). Such reform only occurred after being given significant responsibility, which provides the intellectual challenge and stimulation that previously was presented by the challenges of the illicit actions.

Not every criminal can be moved to a position that provides the requisite challenge. A significant reason for that is that security requires a great deal of trust. It is easy to see why someone would be hesitant to hire them for the tough, highly trusted position. If the job doesn’t actually provide enough stimulation, then you may have just hired the fox to provide security for your hen house.

Without the addict getting a safe way to get their fix, we are back to treatment versus incarceration. Taken from the philosophy declaration by Addictions Rehabilitation Association, “It is important for each recovering addict to develop an understanding and insight into his or her addiction and make behavioral changes.” (ARA, 2010). Unlike chemical addicts, computer addicts have their whole life centered around their addiction. Those tech-savvy people will have gone into technical careers. Acknowledging and leaving the addiction means walking away from not just the addiction, but their job, their hobby, their social circle. Realistically, it is not going to happen often enough to consider it a general solution.

Unfortunately, this leaves incarceration. Campbell and Kennedy discuss that the obsessive traits of computer addicts may actually be just keeping up with the rapidly changing nature of the technical landscape. (2010) Possibly, a long enough incarceration will put the addict far enough behind the technical curve that they can implement the lifestyle changes discussed above rather than get back into the field that no longer resembles what they left.

ARA (2010). Philosophy. Addictions Rehabilitation Association Retrived November 10, 2012 from

Campbell, Q., & Kennedy, D.M. (2009). The psychology of computer criminals. In Bosworth, et al (Eds.), Computer security handbook. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

No comments:

Post a Comment