Background to the Study

Although only a few would deny that the internet has had a major impact upon criminal behavior, there is much less consensus as to what that impact has been. Even when Nations agree that cybercrimes are a problem there appears to be no overall consensus about how to deal with them collectively1. All too often claims about the prevalence of Cybercrimes lack clarification as to what it is that is particularly “cyber” about them.

Indeed, when so called cases of cybercrime are closely examined they often have the familiar ring of the “traditional” rather than the “cyber” about them. These offences typically comprises: hacking2, fraud, pornography, pedophilia and the likes. Some of these are already part of existing criminal justice regimes in Nigeria. Perhaps more confusing is the contrast between the many hundreds or thousands of incidents that are supposedly reported each year and the relatively small number of known prosecutions. “Is this a case of the absence of evidence not being evidence”, as per secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld”3. “Or should we be asking if there are actually such things as cybercrimes?”4 Other authors5 have questioned whether cybercrimes are actually categories of crime in need of new theory, or whether they are understood better by existing theories.

The reason why it is called cyber crime is still not understood. What is clear is that the word cyber crime was first coined by an American writer of Science fiction, William Gibson in (1982) and then popularized on his 1984 novel „Necromancer‟: the term cyberspace became a popular descriptor of the mentally constructed virtual enviroment within which networked computer activity takes place “cybercrime” broadly describes the crimes that take place within the space and the term has come to symbolize insecurity and risk online.

By itself, cybercrimes is fairly meaningless because it tends to be used metaphorically and emotively rather than scientifically or legally. Usually to signify the occurrence of harmful behavior that is somehow related to the misuse of a networked computer system6.

Largely an invention of the media, „cybercrime‟ originally had no specific reference point in law in the United Kingdom or United States of America7

The offence that did become associated with the term was a rather narrow legal construction based upon concerns about hacking. In fact, many of the so called cybercrimes that have caused concern over the past decade are not necessarily crimes in criminal law.

If we could turn the clock back in time then perhaps theterm „cyberspace crime‟ would have been a more precise and accurate descriptor. However, regardless of its merit and demerits, the term „cybercrime‟ has entered the public parlance and we are stuck with it.8

Currently, the internet is so news worthy that a single dramatic incident of cybercrime has the power to shape public opinion and fuel public anxiety, frequently resulting in (political) demands for instant‟ and simple solutions to extremely complex situations.

“Indeed, media accounts of cybercrimes still frequently invoke a dramatic imagery of a vulnerable society being brought to its knees by forces beyond its control such as an „Electronic Pearl Harbor”9‟ or a „Cyber Tsuname10.

The now defunct Omni magazine, which was published between 1978 and 1998, was one of a range of contemporary publications that combined articles on science fact with short works of science fiction to form popular technology-related narratives. It was, coincidentally, in the pages of Omni magazine, that William Gibson first coined the word „Cyberspace‟ in 1982.

As more aspects of people‟s life move to digital networks, crime comes with them. People‟s lives increasingly depend on the internet and digital networks, but these create new vulnerabilities and new ways for criminal to exploit the digital environment. Not only can many existing crimes be replicated in online environments, but novel crimes that exploit specific features of digital networks have emerged as well, with new crimes, comes new forms of policing and new forms of surveillance and with these comes new dangers for civil liberties.

At the dawn of the computer age, Marshall McLuham11 predicted that new electronic media would bring the world closer together into a “global village. The internet is the fulfillment of his prophecy. People scattered across the globe can now all congregate together in cyber space to share idea and information. Ironically, the global village leads us towards a future that revives part of the past-life in the small village of several centuries ago. With the prevalence of cell phone cameras, people can no longer engage in social infractions without risking being caught in the act. No longer can people hide in obscurity and escape accountability for their actions. People can readily document and record each other‟s norm violations, and they can then post them online.