Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

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Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

Majid Yar: Cybercrime and Society

There is growing interest among academics and broad public about „cyber preposition issues“. Terms like cyberterrorism, cybercrime, cybersecurity or cyberwar attract attention of increasing number of people year by year. Also the frequency of usage of these terms in students’ theses gets increasingly higher and therefore the topic does not persist just in ICT world. Authors specializing in modern society issues such as sociology, psychology or law also deal with cyberspace and this connection can lead to different and often very interesting points of view.

One of them – Majid Yar – completed this year the second edition of book called „Cybercrime and society“ (the first edition came out in 2005). As he admits in preface, the 2005 book has acquired positive reader responses – both students and academic criminologists. Second edition is a result of cyber domain, which is constantly in flux. It wasn´t just the absence of mentions about Facebook and other social media, but also changes for example in criminal justice, which supported the second edition.

The second edition of Cybercrime and society was published in 2013 by Professor Majid Yar, who obtained his academic degree in sociology. Besides researching and teaching at the University of Kent and Keel he was also employed as a lecturer in criminology. Among his latest books are The Handbook on Internet Crime (2009), Community & Recognition: Ethics, Inter-Subjectivity and the Foundations of Political Life (2009) and The Politics of Misrecognition (2011). The fact that Yar has been a Professor of Sociology since 2008 plays huge role in the character of his books.

Sociological context is very obvious and it offers interesting insight. A reader can be also a little bit disappointed in the same way, though. Chapters about child pornography, psychology of hackers or stalking issues sound very engaging; maybe thanks to their sociological background. But these topics can also slip to wide or general character. In other words – things are said correctly and consist both sociological and cyber context, but the book does not offer anything new and surprising, anything what we wouldn´t deduce by common sense. And in my opinion, this is the weakest point of the whole publication.

The book is divided into 10 chapters comprising of nearly 200 pages. Each of them deals with one clearly defined topic which follows the previous one. A reader is able to easily find information that he is looking for in a few minutes. In the end of each chapter the author refers to further reading which should deepen reader´s knowledge. And it is fundamental, because like I said before, the facts presented in this book are basic indeed. First chapters introduce terms like cybercrime, hackers, hacking (…), and frame topics like criminal justice and policy perspective. Then continue with political hacking in the form of hacktivism and a cyberterrorism.

The fourth chapter focuses on cyber-frauds, scams and cons. In my opinion it´s the most interesting and worthwhile part of the book (within the character of the publication discussed above). A whole 15 pages of the text deal with types of internet auction frauds and complement this with short case studies. A reader is provided with insight in the form of authentic scan of the “Nigerian Letter Scam” email and a classic phishing email. A short article describes “romance scams” and includes exact numbers of victims.

Next three chapters focus on harmful internet content: hate speech, pornography, child pornography and child sex abuse imagery. The author continues with cyberstalking and a pedophilia. These chapters offer interesting topics which not only academics would like to read. But most parts are written in too general terms which unfortunately makes them an interesting outline for somebody who needs a solid basis for his essay or a thesis. A reader can´t get bored – for example in “the hate speech” chapter, Yar describes interesting Facebook pages named like “Kill a Jew Day”, “We hate GAY people”, “Execute the Gays”, “Murder Muslim Scum” or other authentic hate speech texts. Pages concerning pornography issues work with detailed statistics, which makes the topic more applicable than the rest of the book. Cyberstalking focuses on similar topic and works with statistics of entrenched institutions. But concerning the topic of pedophilia, I find the chapter redundant. In my opinion only the chapters about legal and policing challenges can be considered as academic and useable for highly relevant cybersecurity purposes. Nevertheless, paragraphs focusing on legislation (which nearly each chapter includes) aren´t perfect either. Sentences like “…there is no consensus” or “legislative in these issues is different across countries” or “common law perspective is needed” are often repeated, which is usual in current cybercrime books in general. Unfortunately Yar follows this trend. It´s a pity concerning the fact that this publication comprises of just 200 pages.

The last part of the book has the highest quality level. It focuses on policing the internet, involvement of both state and non-state actors, privatized for-profit cybercrime policing – concisely, but based on high volume of academic literature. The author also refers to many institutions and involved actors, operates with numbers and summarizes goals for “for-profit” sector.

The biggest advantage of the publication lies in its systematic character and ability to explain terms in a way of exercise book. That’s why you simply can’t get lost in the content, even if you are a 9th class student. The author explains fundamental cyber terms which are basic for everyone who deals with this issue. Information is supported by venerable number of literature, therefore it´s hard for a reader to doubt its relevance.

It is a great handbook for someone who is looking for basic orientation in this subject, wants to find simple definitions and needs to understand the issue. Reference a 9th class student isn´t ironic – the book is really able to serve as a textbook for secondary schools and bring them required information from the area in which they can be considered as a reference object. However, due to its generality the publication isn´t useful for academics or for students of fields such as security studies, criminology and – in line with Yar – sociology. These students can read Yar´s book before they start to deal with academic issues, but deepening of knowledge base about the subject is much needed.

Yar, Majid. (2013): Cybercrime and Society: Second Edition. Chennai: Sage Publications.

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Miroslava Pavlikova
12. 10. 2013