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Reviewing Cybercrime; Epistemology, Political Economy and Models

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Abstract: The recent publication of the UK Home Office’s paper “Cybercrime – a Review of the Evidence” forms a useful departure point for considering the way knowledge around online offending is currently produced and disseminated. As an evidence review, the aim of the paper was to assemble as comprehensive and up-to-date an overview of cybercrime as possible. But recurring issues around the availability and quality of evidence as well as the kind of evidence considered relevant by the research sponsors had important effects upon the content of the review. Equally, if not more important to its conclusions was the way the construct of ‘cybercrime’ was interpreted and presented within the typology underlying the offending categories. In this paper I set out a background to the research and consider some of the key methodological issues which arose, in particular the balances which had to be made between available knowledge, political expediency and the kinds of harmful behaviours considered worthy of inclusion within the review. I relate some of these issues to wider problems in the field of cybercrime research and link these problems to the technological fetishism which infects much of the thinking within this field. I conclude by outlining an alternative, more socially based conceptual model which I argue offers a more robust and, in the long term, adaptable framework for the understanding and policing of ICT enabled crime.

Bio: Dr Michael McGuire is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the University of Surrey and has a particular interest in the study of technology and its impacts upon the justice system. His first book Hypercrime: The New Geometry of Harm (Glasshouse, 2008), critiqued the notion of cybercrime as a way of modelling computer enabled offending and was was awarded the 2008 British Society of Criminology runners up Book Prize. His most recent publication – Technology, Crime & Justice: The Question Concerning Technomia (Routledge, 2012) – provides one of the first overviews of the fundamental shifts in crime and the justice system arising from new technologies. His theoretical research is completed by a range of applied studies in this area, including recent work on the impacts of E-crime upon UK retail for the British Retail Consortium; a study of Organised Digital Crime Groups for BAE /Detica and a comprehensive evidence review of cybercrime for the Home Office.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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