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Cybercrime and Corrections: Predictions for 2012
By Art Bowker, Cybercrime Specialist
Published: 01/16/2012

Computer 2012 key Well it is time from my first post of the year and I have decided that 2012 predictions are in order. Last year I wrote about mobile phones in prisons and online drug sales, gambling, and victimization to name a few. Are these going to be topics in 2012? Regrettably, yes.

Let start with mobile phones in prisons. Last year I noted mobile phones were being used by prisoners to coordinate attacks including an attempted hit on a correctional officer. Charles Manson even had one in his cell. Within the last two months mobile phones were reportedly used during a coordinated attack by prisoners in a Georgia prison. Corrections Commission Brian Owens was reported as stating:
“It’s at an epidemic level. Cell phones in prison aren’t about calling grandma for Thanksgiving. It’s about power, it’s about money, and often times it’s about gangs.”
During 2010, more than 8,000 mobile phones were confiscated from inside Georgia correctional facilities. In another mobile phone incident, inmates arranged for meetings with prostitutes while on work detail outside the facility. It seems like the Federal Government may be looking at ways to allow jamming of unauthorized mobile devices in correctional facilities. I put the chances at 50/50 that something will happen positive, particular during a presidential election year.

Last year I provided information regarding online illegal drugs sales. Before I make my prediction, let me mention a December story about online gun sales. This story noted that gun sales via the Internet had reached $1 billion in 2009 up from previous years and one site has 1.8 million registered users. Many of these sales were “largely unregulated and undocumented.” So guns are being sold in increasing numbers online. What does guns have to do with drugs? Well, one doesn’t need a background check to purchase drugs, presumably just a prescription. My common sense side tells me a gun should be the hardest thing to purchase online, followed by drugs. But my side that knows online business is the way of the world knows that is just not the case. Predictions? During an election year there will be no legistlative action to stop this activity. Gee, I hope an inmate can’t order drugs and guns online and have them delivered. But then again they were able to order prostitutes with mobile phones from jail. It would be a piece of cake for an offender under home confinement/detention.

Online gambling is also going to be interesting issue this year. Within just days before Christmas, The Justice Department, gave states the go ahead to start cashing in on intrastate online gambling systems that don’t include sports betting. States are going to have to make decisions about this issue sooner rather than later in light of this turn around. In these tough economic times I believe they will rush ahead, without a lot of study on the possible negative effects of online gambling.

Are online vitimizations are going to continue? In 2011, I noted one case of a Craigslist serial killer, in New York and individuals who used the site to rob and kill in California. Now it appears there are several difference cases were killers lured their victims online in Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. It seems the predators have taken their hunting online in a big way. At the same time we have a study out that stated more than than half of United States kids under 13 have illegal Facebook accounts. I know the cases involving killers noted above involved sites such as Craigslist, not Facebook and they were going after adults not kids. I am sure predators are only going to hunt those areas and leave Facebook as well as kids alone….NOT.

Internet harassment (cyberbullying, cyberstalking, etc.) also is going to continue as more and more folks get online, which will expose them to increased opportunities for victimization. By the way, January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

Congress is grappling with Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which many argue is out of date requiring clarification about “exceeding authorization” and those Terms of User Agreements that sites have, including Facebook. In a nutshell there has to be a balance between those that fudge there online profiles to get a date and those that are fabricating information to target someone for victimization. I wonder where a Term of User agreement that prohibits particular class of offender will stand in the end. How will Facebook’s rule about no sex offenders stand? Wait a minute, it is an election year… there is no way politicians are going to go out of their way to advocate for forcing websites to allow sex offenders on them. Will courts make a decision? Stay tuned.

What about gangs? Are they still going high tech? Yep, The National Gang Intelligence Center noted it its 2011 assessment:
“Gangs are becoming increasingly adaptable and sophisticated, employing new and advanced technology—including social networking websites—to carry out criminal activity discreetly and connect with other gang members, criminal organizations, and potential recruits around the country and around the world.”
Speaking of gangs…what about hacker groups? I don’t think we have heard the last of Anonymous. They like getting headlines. Maybe they will try to muck up a candidate’s or a party’s site since it is an election year here in the states. What about flash riots? I don’t know. Seems the last bunch occurred in August.. We will see if they reappear when the weather gets warmer.

What does all this mean for corrections? Well the mobile phone issue is obviously a big deal for anyone working in a prison. It needs resolved, even if it is an election year. What about community corrections? Seems like everyone is looking to do more with less. Hopefully, pretrial, probation, and parole agencies will take the recent American Probation and Parole Association issue paper, Managing the Risks Posed by Offender Computer Use to heart and take cyberspace into account. Corrections has to realize that we living in a world where online conduct frequently has real world implications, particularly for vicitms. At the same time technology can help offenders and we need to realize that a one size approach, namingly prohibiting all computer and Internet access for everyone who misuses technology, is not the solution. For me I will try to keep you posted and updated. Now where is my cigar at?

Art Bowker is the author of the soon to be released book The Cybercrime Handbook for Community Corrections: Managing Offender Risk in the 21st Century, publisher Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd. He has over 26 years experience in both law enforcement and corrections at the state and federal level. In 2008, Art was the International President of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA). This professional non-profit organization is the largest of its kind devoted to the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes involving advanced technologies (htcia.org). Art is also member of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and is a member of their Technology Committee, He has a Master of Corrections degree from Kent State University. Follow Art on Twitter.com at: (http://twitter.com/Computerpo)

Other articles by Bowker:


  1. AutoCorrect on 08/07/2019:

    Any update on this? Cyber security is a boom IT sector and there must be career options in corrections. Given the power of modern mobile technology, monitoring and shutting down security threats has to be done if any freedoms are going to be allowed.

  2. richard.brown on 01/11/2012:

    Solution to cell phones, drugs, contraband in jail/prison facilities...TSA style search and *body-scans* of all visitors...and inmates as deemed necessary.

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