[EDITORIALS]Keeping Net free of trashThe number of cyber crimes has swollen 500 times during the last five years, according to data released yesterday by the Korean National Policy Agency. In 1997, a total of 121 cyber crimes were reported; more than 60,000 cases were cited last year.
The types of crimes now vary, no longer confined to the distribution of obscene material. From slander to fraud involving e-commerce, hacking, stalking, dissemination of computer viruses and attacks on Web sites and servers, new kinds of crimes spring up every day. The criminal activity is the side effect of the Internet becoming an integral part of our daily lives, and anyone can be one of its victims.
Cyber crimes have several distinctive characteristics compared with offline crime. First, they have a nearly instantaneous effect: A massive amount of data can be transferred in the blink of an eye. Second, cyber crimes do not respect borders. Third, their perpetrators hide behind the Internet’s anonymity. And last, the object of these activities, data, is nonmaterial. These characteristics of cyber crimes abet the quick propagation of the illegal activity as illustrated by the nationwide shutdown of the Internet last January.
Junk mail is another serious problem. E-mail containing obscene material is distributed indiscriminately, exposing children to sexual content and violence.
We commend the government for its decision to require Internet users in the private and public sectors to use their real names when leaving messages on Internet bulletin boards. The government is also considering providing “junior e-mail” services exclusively for children and punishing those who send junk mail to these accounts, another initiative that we must applaud.
To counter cyber crimes effectively we need international cooperation, such as drawing up standard legislation that is effective across borders. We urge the government to strengthen the cyber crime investigation team, which has only 600 staff members. But the most effective preventive measure is voluntary action by Internet users to maintain a clean online community.