Cybercrime and Punishment Around the World

Legally reviewed by: Laura Smith In: Corporate & Financial Crime

Cybercrime is on the rise around the world and has been increasing steadily for a number of years. Interpol describe cybercrime as a ‘fast-growing area of crime’ with costs running into the billions of dollars. Next year (2019) could see the total cost to the world economy rise to over 2 trillion dollars.

When you think of cybercrime, you tend to think of fraudsters posing as princes or a spotty teenager hacking into a website or network. Cybercrime is much more sophisticated and complex than that these days. Interpol report that they are seeing cybercriminal networks in action that span across the globe. Cybercrime has now become the second most reported crime in the world and accounts for almost half of all crimes in the UK.

As cybercrime solicitors, we thought it would be useful to have a look at how cybercrime is affecting the world. From the costs, to where it’s happening the to looking at some notorious cases of cybercrime and their punishments. Being aware of cybercrime and its characteristics is really important as our world becomes more and more integrated with technology and as cybercrime looks set to become the most prevalent crime in the world.

We’ve seen how companies are using and selling our data and we’ve seen plenty of large cyberattacks around the world. It’s time to get in the know so you can be prepared and take action to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

We’ve put together this handy visual guide to talk you through everything you need to know about cybercrime around the world and the world’s most notorious cybercriminals:

A good way of understanding how varied and diverse cybercrime can be is by looking at some famous cases. We’re going to take a closer look at some notorious cyber criminals. From fraud to theft, the spectrum of cybercrime is far and wide and sometimes, quite disturbing.

Kevin ‘Dark Dante’ Poulsen

One of the first cybercriminals to reach notoriety on a fledgling internet was Kevin Poulsen. Kevin, also known as ‘Dark Dante’, hacked a Los Angeles radio station’s phone lines to guarantee that he would be the 102nd caller and win himself a brand-new Porsche.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and became the first American to have a court order that banned him from using a computer and the internet for a number of years after his release. Since then, he has renounced his cybercriminal ways and now works as an Editor at The Daily Beast. A historic case for cybercrime.

David ‘Kwyjibo’ Smith

Credited with introducing the ‘Melissa’ virus. Using a computer worm, this virus would be on a Microsoft Word document, attached to an email. Once the document was opened, the virus would be sent to 50 addresses in the recipient’s contacts. This virus caused around 80 million dollars in damages.

The virus didn’t start out as malicious, but variants of it appeared. These variants would delete sensitive information and wreak havoc. Smith was sentenced to ten years in prison but served just 20 months.

Hamza ‘The Smiling Hacker’ Bendelladj

Hamza Bendelladj, also known as ‘RBL’, ‘BX1’ and ‘The Smiling Hacker’. He is known for embezzling between ten and twenty million dollars from American and European financial institutions. He developed a virus with a Russian known as ‘Gribodemon’ called ‘RimiG33k’ which found its way onto 50 million computers around the world.

After finally being bought to account in 2015, he faced up to thirty years in prison but was sentenced to fifteen. This was a major turning point for cybercrime as Hamza gathered lots of support in his home country of Algeria and around the world.

It also created a discussion on whether cybercrime should be treated the same as capital crimes. Notice how in the previous case, there was 80 million dollars’ worth of damage, but David L. Smith got off comparatively lightly to Hamza.

Andrew ‘Weev’ Aurenheimer

Andrew Aurenheimer, also known as Weev was part of a hacker group called Goatse Security. They claimed to provide a service by exposing security flaws. However, when Weev hacked into the AT&T databases and exposed the data of nearly 120,000 iPad users including celebrities and government and military officials, he found himself in a spot of bother. The incident sparked a discussion on how to disclose security flaws.

Weev and his hacker group notified the media before they did AT&T, which is certainly lacking in ethics. Goatse Security said they used industry standard practices and were being good Samaritans. An investigation ensued, and the police found large amounts of hard, illegal drugs on his property. He spent three and a half years in prison.

Since his release, he has revealed he is a neo-Nazi and white supremacist. So, all in all, this guy isn’t just a cybercriminal but an all-round despicable human.

The takeaway from this example is how to alert people to security flaws in a professional way and to be careful with your data as there are people who see it as doing a service to try and obtain it.

Jeanson James ‘Gobo’ Ancheta

Jeanson James Ancheta was the first person to be charged for using a ‘botnet’. Using a computer worm, he took control of over half a million computer systems. These then served pop-up ads, were hired by people who attacked websites and became the source of a huge amount of spam.

The FBI had to catch him using a sting operation. He was sentenced to prison and he also had to forfeit his BMW. Any user of the internet knows about spam and pop-up ads, will we ever be rid of them? Doubt it.

James ‘Pablo Escobar’ Jeffery

The case of James Jeffery points to a dangerous and disturbing trend called ‘doxxing’. He hacked into the British Pregnancy Advisory Service website after two close friends of his were to terminate their pregnancies.

He gathered the data of 10,000 records that included names, addresses and other personal details. He uploaded an anti-abortion sentiment to the website and intended to publish the records of these women.

Doxxing is done all the time on social media, but not normally to this scale. Hackers and internet trolls will often expose the address and phone numbers of famous people online. This has serious ramifications as people can then use this information to harass, stalk and abuse. Take Dr Christine Blasey Ford for example who, since her testimony, has had to move four times.

As you can see, the legal precedent for cybercrime is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a wide range of sentences and malicious actions that have been undertaken here and the way we use and regulate the internet is still constantly developing. You can see there’s not really a standardised punishment and it’s very hard to nail down the legality of what we do on the internet.

As cybercrime solicitors, get in touch to see if we can help if you have been affected by cybercrime. As the internet grows and becomes more advanced, so do the cybercriminals that use it maliciously. Use the internet responsibly, use it safely and use it with caution.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.