Online deviant behavior or Internet deviance can be described as a number of activities that are either illegal, amoral, or both. It is not an untold secret in the contemporary times that the accessibility to information has been transformed by the Internet. This is because it has become a very easy task for people to search others who possess similar beliefs and then emphasize widely unacceptable behaviors. Internet has also empowered people with similar pathological level. Such individuals are able to organize and communicate with each other on virtual communities. Although it is still not clear whether such communities are able to influence masses but there is no doubt that Internet has contributed in the prevalence and propagation of certain deviant activities and behaviors (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom, & Pope, 2011).
There is no doubt in the fact that people of the present times are influenced by Internet and make use of latest communication technology for the formation and maintenance of relationships. They use virtual worlds for a variety of things and to pursue their individual and collective interests. As mentioned above, Internet has efficiently connected individuals who did not have means to do so in the earlier times. Now, their isolation has ended and they are able to find and converse with each other with no geographical barriers. Isolated people have formed social groups on Internet as a consequence of the stated easiness of accessibility for validating and supporting their identities, ideologies, and behaviors. It is exceedingly important to mention here that these activities are carried out in considerable inscrutability and secrecy. As a result, formation of close relationships becomes possible due to reduced self-disclosure possibilities (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom, & Pope, 2011).
It is the nature of Internet to enable people “click and choose whatever information-seeking behavior appeals to them, from passively reading Web site text to participating in active bulletin boards and group discussions, or downloading audio clips or videos” (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom, & Pope, 2011). This is the reason many people believe that despite its advantages, the Internet has contributed as a platform for isolated individual/groups with negative minds and deviant approaches to grow in massive numbers. It is a hard reality that Internet gives great opportunities for people to find others with similar deviant penchants. Such people have negative tastes and likes and may be pedophilic, sexually-active, self-injurious, and the list never ends. Internet let such people experience freedom and safety in the cyberspace that are not enjoyed by them in their isolated real world. When like-minded negative people meet on virtual forums, it helps them to validate their status and standing in the society. In short, the Internet is undoubtedly a well placed and appropriate breeding ground for a variety of deviant behaviors. The Internet has overwhelmingly impacted the pornography industry in the recent times. People who like to surf such content access deviant material by using downloading software as they have a temptation for hardcore pornography (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom, & Pope, 2011).
Moreover, the Internet is contributing in the circulation of deviant material. The Internet is also responsible for influencing people with belligerent or aggressive beliefs, behaviors and viewpoints. Internet is used as an advantageous tool by the extremists who have access to visual forums and venues. Such discriminatory groups take advantage of the new technologies for the promotion of their prejudiced, narrow-minded, and dogmatic ideologies. The anonymity and cheapness offered by the Internet has facilitated such people to enhance promotion and recruitment for their wrongful cause. It is extremely important to mention here that the embedded story-telling and messages that are used by hate groups impact large numbers of adolescents due to their vulnerability (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom, & Pope, 2011).
Cyber-terrorism can be described as “the exploitation and attack of cyberspace targets by terrorists as a method to cause harm to reach terrorist goals” (Purpura, 2008). In the 21st century, people all over the world are dependent on information technology, especially the Internet. This is the major reason cyberspace is used by extremists, terrorists and dogmatic significantly. They attack by interrupting electrical power grids, global monetary transactions, air traffic controls, drinking water systems, and the list is endless (Ching, 2010).
The businesses, infrastructure, and organizations around the globe encounter web bugs and worms from hackers on a daily basis. Although the number of cyber-terrorism attacks is small, terrorists of the twenty-first century are notorious for finding target weaknesses to take advantage of fabulous losses (Purpura, 2008).
With the stipulation that cyber-warfare is a warning about future occurrences, the threat of cyber-terrorism comes into sight as more worrying. For instance, the hackers belonging to Israel and Palestine have attacked each other's Internet infrastructures. In a similar manner, the sites of the US government have been attacked over and again. The best example of such an attack was witnessed in 2001 when hundred US government and commercial websites were either disfigured or crashed by the pro-Chinese, following the loss of a Chinese fighter jet in a crash with a U.S. inspection aircraft. As a consequence, American hackers stroke back by spoiling three hundred Chinese websites (Purpura, 2008).
Similar to hackers, cyber-terrorists have the benefit of conducting aggressive operations from just about any place, by themselves, at minimum cost, without the possibility of injury, and with partial danger of recognition. In addition, they also have the benefit of covering their tracks and by bringing encryption programs into play that are almost indestructible; cyber-terrorists make the attack showing it as being originated from a different source.
The Estonian government websites and banks were thwarted with a colossal cyber-attack in late April 2007. This cyber attack is also called a denial of service attack. The Estonian government announced “the attack originated from the Kremlin and coincided with Estonia's decision to remove the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, a Soviet-era shrine to Red Army veterans” (Lake, 2011). Consequently, the Russian hackers got the revenge from Estonia with constant requests for information. The first response in Estonia was that the attacks were done by the Russian state.
As Estonian servers were jammed with information, the cyber attacks froze the sites for the duration of this distributed denial of service (DDoS). This attack was predominantly a grave one for Estonia because the country was intensely dependent on computer networks for government and business. The Estonians were very proud and blew their horns for being a paperless state. They were proud of themselves because even the elections in the country were held electronically. Without a doubt, information technology is a principal strength of Estonia. It is the reason Estonia was competent enough to block the origins of the responses quickly. However, the Estonian government was not able to communicate capably and powerfully at the beginning of the events. Attacks on government websites were mixed together with non availability of correct information and falsified postings. Despite the fact that not every person or the whole lot was under attack, the entire Internet infrastructure of Estonia became so swarmed with traffic and preoccupied with protecting itself that it closed down and stopped to function (Liptak, 2009). This whole scenario brought the “corporate banking, access to the media and even day-to-day personal transactions to a halt" (as qtd. in Liptak, 2009).
As discussed, it was the Russian hackers who were accused of attacking the Estonian websites in May 2007 as retaliation against Estonia for putting a Russian war memorial somewhere else. Thus, the 3-week synchronized attack turned out to be a troublesome incident for Estonia which was totally reliant on computer networks for government and business (Liptak, 2009). However, these attacks clearly showed that cyber attacks are not restricted to particular institutions. They can go forward to a level intimidating and menacing to national security. When an event is looked back, it becomes understandable that the Estonian state was not critically influenced as the state functions and critical information infrastructure resources were not broken or troubled to a large extent. Nevertheless, the other nation states were given “a wake-up call on the new threats emerging from cyberspace, alongside with new types of opponents” (Czosseck, Ottis & Talihärm, 2011).
In the European continent, the country that has the highest broadband connectivity is Estonia. During the year 2007, electronic channels were used by ninety-eight percent of all bank transactions in the country and eighty-two percent of the entire tax declarations of Estonia were submitted via the Internet. An e-learning environment is used by just about every school in Estonia. In addition to this, it has become a practice in Estonian public and private sector administrations to use ID cards and digital signatures ("Protecting Europe," 2010).
The international community responded immediately after observing the seriousness of cyber attacks on Estonia. There were no preparations on the part of before attacks. It was helped by the Finnish, German, and Israeli computer geniuses. They were also facilitated by the expertise of NATO CERTs European Union’s European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA). The crisis united the western countries. Therefore, at one hand, the Internet was used as weapon and mobilization tool by the Russian-speaking hackers; on the other hand, Estonia and its allies successfully responded to the attacks by using digital networks (Herzog, 2011).
The worldwide reactions to the 2007 attacks on Estonia pointed towards the change in international policies. They clearly indicated that the countries would not continue to be disconnected and unworried as both political and nonpolitical actors endangered the autonomy of their allies by means of the Internet as a weapon. It is important to note that many countries improved and enhanced their cyber-warfare competencies after the whole scenario (Herzog, 2011).
The cyber security matter is a continued one. It is not an untold secret that more attacks can be made as the Soviet satellites are increased in number with a superior and sophisticated IT structure. Apart from the assumption whether the Estonia was attacked by Russian government or not, it is a reality that Russian opponents may face a cyber attack any time. Cyber attacks may even be used for the manipulation of leaders and pressurizing general public. At present, there are insufficient international agreements and laws concerning cyber attacks. This stated lack may be advantageous for the cyber attackers. It is worth-mentioning that a similar cyber attack was carried out in Georgia and consequently brought military reform in the country (Ashmore, 2009).
It is very important for the organizations and governments to take appropriate steps for creating a comprehensive and bendable defense system. The users and managers of IT systems must be given education and training to respond efficiently to the cyber attacks’ menace. The defense must include technical responses and the IT systems be made effective and efficient. Computer users are also required to increase their knowledge and understanding of information security and the risks that spawn from the cyberspace. The various societal groups must be given awareness of secure computer use. It is also imperative for nations to work for the promotion of cyber safety measures both nationally and internationally.
Ashmore, W. C. (2009). Impact of Alleged Russian Cyber Attacks . BDCOL. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://www.bdcol.ee/files/files/documents/Research/BSDR2009/1_%20Ashmore%20-%20Impact%20of%20Alleged%20Russian%20Cyber%20Attacks%20.pdf
Authority of the House of Lords, European Union Committee. (2010). Protecting Europe against Large-Scale Cyber-Attacks. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from the Stationery Office Limited website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldselect/ldeucom/68/68.pdf
Ching, J. (2010). Cyberterrorism. New York, NY: Rosen Central.
Czosseck, C., Ottis, R., & Talihärm, A. (2011). Estonia after the 2007 Cyber Attacks: Legal, Strategic and Organisational Changes in Cyber Security. International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism (IJCWT), 1(1), 11+.
Herzog, S. (2011). Revisiting the Estonian Cyber Attacks: Digital Threats and Multinational Responses. Journal of Strategic Security, IV(2), 49-60. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1105&context=jss
Lake, E. (2011, August 15). Gunman's Manifesto Has Echoes of Russia Propaganda Attack. The Washington Times, p. A11.
Liptak, D. A. (2009, October 1). Information Warfare: Part 1, What You Need to Know. Searcher, 17, 21+.
McDonald, H. S., Horstmann, N., Strom, K. J., & Pope, M. W. (2009). The Impact of the Internet on Deviant Behavior and Deviant Communities . Duke University. Retrieved May 4, 2014, from http://sites.duke.edu/ihss/files/2011/12/IRW-Literature-Reviews-Deviance-and-the-Internet.pdf
Purpura, P. P. (2008). Security and Loss Prevention: An Introduction (5th ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann.
Williams, M. (2007). Virtually Criminal: Crime, Deviance and Regulation online. London: Routledge.