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Alex Barilaro 2 years ago
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      content/posts/punishing-cybercrime.html

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content/posts/punishing-cybercrime.html

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<p>What recourse do we have? The digital chemotherapy is weaponisation. Cybercrime occupies an unusual overlap in the Venn diagram between criminal skills and transferable or useful skills. The seduction of that imaginary can be weaponised against cybercrime itself. There are perfectly lawful and useful ways for wannabe and already-are hackers to participate in the hacker subculture. What’s more is that those avenues for participation offer a means to protect against the less law-abiding whiz-kids of the world. Rather than attempt to erase a popular depiction decades in the making, why not exploit it and put out the call: "Help wanted! Hack for money and fame!"</p>
<p>There aren’t enough outlets for the whiz-kids to show off their prowess in lawful ways. So, we need more. More hackathons. More recruiting. More notoriety. But more subtlety. The contemporary cyber security circuit has all the schoolyard appeal of a balding dad taking too much interest in a science fair project. The draw of cybercrime is the thriller-like mystique of the game, and corporate men in grey suits with grey project propositions and grey prizes are anti-thriller. A more savvy lure away from the dark side doesn’t dangle a corporate ladder in front of at-risk whiz-kids; it dangles the exact same thing the dark side does and makes no mention of the fact that this is the light. Instead of the Prime Minister dryly announcing that cyber security is Australia’s Next Big Thing, why not pose a challenge? Take a leaf from Cicada 3301’s book and leave cryptic digital challenges that invite anyone who thinks they can roll with the big shots to do exactly that. Even better if you don’t post your challenge on a government site. Or, leave a honeypot. Run rumours throughout the underground that the government or Company Z has their secret formulae in a difficult, but still crackable cyber bunker. At the end, send successful heisters congratulations and an invitation. Most importantly, maintain the allure even after you’ve caught your fish. It might be a little dry to keep the cowboys in a public servant office, so don’t. Government work can be good enough for cyber rogues. Form APTs<a href="#fn2" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref2" role="doc-noteref"><sup>2</sup></a> and their defensive counterparts; your own state-sponsored rogues, separate from the government, but still decidedly good guys.</p>
<p>Of course, some won’t be swayed. Some will be too principled, or maybe just <em>too far gone, man</em>. A few players will remain in the shadows and keep on with their dirty work. Why? Faced with the chance to do something good and lose none of the world that they live in, what dastardly seduction is there in staying put and hurting people?</p>
<p>None. There is exactly zero appeal in hurting people. But you aren’t really hurting anyone in the cyber game. The popular dichotomy has forever been between the Internet and *real life*, as if the former were somehow separate from the latter. And isn’t it? There is something very unreal about cyber happenings. Like that infamous Californian city, what happens on the web seems to stay there. Real life lost (or never really had) the big-screen drama that the cyber frontier imaginary maintains. Cyberspace feels like a separate realm because it is; absent of any of the rules of the embodied world, cyberspace becomes its own space. Moreso when cyberspace is also absent of any of the traditional modes of communication and interaction between human beings: there are very few visible human faces, there’s no body language, there’s seldom even audio. And then the sheer deluge of content sweeps away what little humanity is present into a single, amorphous mob if you don’t pay enough attention. Being in the cyber is to be a droplet in a hurricane and see (and ignore) thousands of other droplets.</p>
<p>None. There is exactly zero appeal in hurting people. But you
aren’t really hurting anyone in the cyber game. The popular
dichotomy has forever been between the Internet and *real life*,
as if the former were somehow separate from the latter. And isn’t
it? There is something very unreal about cyber happenings. Like
that infamous Nevadean city, what happens on the web seems to stay there. Real life lost (or never really had) the big-screen drama that the cyber frontier imaginary maintains. Cyberspace feels like a separate realm because it is; absent of any of the rules of the embodied world, cyberspace becomes its own space. Moreso when cyberspace is also absent of any of the traditional modes of communication and interaction between human beings: there are very few visible human faces, there’s no body language, there’s seldom even audio. And then the sheer deluge of content sweeps away what little humanity is present into a single, amorphous mob if you don’t pay enough attention. Being in the cyber is to be a droplet in a hurricane and see (and ignore) thousands of other droplets.</p>
<p>Bilateral anonymity has a profoundly dehumanising and, consequently, disinhibiting effect on our cyber behaviour. Digital dirty work doesn’t feel like dirty work is because our interaction with other cyber denizens is muted by the lack of anything human to interface with <span class="citation" data-cites="ambivalent">(Phillips and Milner 2017)</span>. You have no one’s eyes to gaze into as you steal their bank details, no one to see cowering in fear as you threaten them with the loss of all their digital belongings or humiliation with the leak of a private photograph. From a superficial perspective, even the most destructive cybercrime really only deals with stuff, never people. To anyone except the victim (and even the victim themselves, sometimes), cyber crime has no victim. Batman is only cool because he doesn’t kill people. Hackers are only cool because they and we never see (or wilfully ignore, or can’t see) the damage they do. This is a neutralisation - psychological bias that amoralizes or justifies a deviant act. Denial of the victim through depersonalisation both seduces hackers initially and keeps them coming back for more.</p>
<p>Any remedy to this is complex, but there are immediate approaches that will work to introduce a sense of victimisation. A tried-and-true moral panic will go some way to constructing a moral burden for cybercrime. The particular way in which this burden is proselytised doesn’t matter. Anything will do; government ad campaigns, increased media sensationalism, even stories from penitent cyber-criminals themselves as obtained from restorative justice techniques.</p>
<p>In spite of this, sometimes hackers will remain cool because we’re very aware of the damage they do. Grey-hat hackers<a href="#fn3" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref3" role="doc-noteref"><sup>3</sup></a>, are motivated because of an overwhelmingly visible victim (though not necessarily a sense of victimisation). These hackers are terrorists slash freedom-fighters, depending on how deeply you agree with their (typically) political motivations. Their behaviour is not informed by the cyberspace imaginary, but by a greater purpose. Cyber-crime is the means to a political end; the notoriety and novelty of the cyberspace as a frontier is auxiliary at best to grey-hat motivations. Although this psyche is described by neutralisations of the condemnation of the condemners or an appeal to higher loyalties, it is not as straightforward to undermine as the victimisation neutralisation. These neutralisations speak to the grey-hat’s act as an act embedded in the embodied world and merely unfolding in the cyber, rather than a more purely cyber act. The neutralisations cannot be undone by affecting the cyber imaginary because these aren’t cyber behaviours.</p>

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