Hollywood has often over-simplified and romanticized the portrayal of the cybercriminal. Movies quintessentially reveal hackers to be misunderstood geniuses attempting to save the very society which ostracized them, only to be impeded by the unforgivingly harsh government. Conversely, the media depicts the cyber-criminal to be an indidvidual driven to undermine the very foundations of a free society. Logically, the truth lies somewhere in between both zealot images.
Most misconceptions people have are unjustifiable. Only an iota of truth exists in them. Cybercriminals do indeed need to be very tech-savvy and intelligent to commit crimes and escape scot-free. As with crimes in general, males do form the greater proportion of criminals than women. The difficulty actually lies in dealing with criminals who do not exactly fit the typical profile, easily escaping legal action.
Misconception 1: All cybercriminals are geeks - smart but social misfits
This might have been the case during the time of the standalone computer when the programmer was usually an MIT graduate glued in front of his monitor and punching feverishly on his keyboard. He needed to be very tech-savvy and possessed little time to socialize with others. Today, however, both the net and the user-friendliness of personal computers have made committing cybercrimes easy for anyone willing to learn to do so. An effective cybercriminal in the modern-day era needs to have excellent social skills and charisma in order to undertake social engineering and exploit the human aspect of encryption systems.
Misconception 2: Teenagers with computers are all cybercriminals
The media ought to shoulder most of the blame for this stereotype. Countless movies have portrayed individual teenage boys hacking into government databases and doing what trained terrorists failed to do. The image of a boy staying up in the night down at his basement working on his computer and wreaking havoc many miles away is prevalent. Just because hacking has become much easier than before does not translate to teenage boys selling military secrets to rival states. Certainly, there may be a one in a million case of such an incident. However, this is an exception which proves the rule. The furthest a typical teenager will go to is illegally downloading warez software and music from the Internet and copying these onto a CD.
Misconception 3: Cybercriminals are not “real” criminals
Strangely, many cybercriminals believe this themselves. This actually gives them the justification to continue committing cybercrimes because these are not “real” crimes. The popularity of online chatting under a pseudonym has reinforced the belief that the cyberworld is separate from the real one. This encourages criminals to dismiss ethics and morals. Cyberstalking, child pornography, online threats and blackmail are now pressing issues. The crimes themselves are not manifested in the real world, but the damage done is. Many also use the Net to find victims in the real world to rape, assault or even murder. An even more terrible counterexample for this myth is the rapid spread of cyberterrorism in which computers are being used to disrupt all telecommunication and security systems in a country.
Misconception 4: All Cybercriminals have the same characteristics
Although, some cybercriminals have similar characteristics, it is impossible to treat all cybercriminals as if they were alike because they are not. Each criminal subculture has its very own type of personality and areas of specialty. For instance, a casual speeder cannot be put in the same category as a serial killer in a getaway truck even if the damage done appears to be the same. Only when people realize that there is no “typical” cybercriminal will they start taking appropriate action against each specific type, in the process closing all loopholes for cyber criminals to escape through.