Discussion Questions on Strain Theory, Cybercriminals, and Social Process Theories

Date:  2021-06-18 14:24:33
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George Washington University
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This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Strain theory states that the tendency to commit crime or engage in criminal behavior is motivated by the lack of opportunity. The United States economic goal is hard work for personal economic growth and upward social mobility. Ironically, the government does not streamline its policies with this goal. There are several set criteria that person must meet in order to achieve the national economic goal. These criteria are referred to as institutionalized means. Thus, they act as hindrances for economic growth of an individual. Consequently, people who are not able to meet their economic needs end up straining in life and may resort to crime. Psychologically, there are five ways through which a person can adapt to the strain that results from the discrepancy between the desire for wealth and its actual possession. One of the ways to adapt to the strain is innovation. Innovative people have the desire to gain wealth but they lack the means to attain it. As a result, they devise ways to create wealth for themselves. Innovators thus commit crime that includes cybercrime, bank robbery, and auto theft, money laundering and other crimes. People may also adapt to economic strain through conformity. This adaptation happens when an individual embraces the cultural goal of economic excellence and accepts the institutionalized means to acquire wealth like education and employment. Conformists thus enter the workforce and obtain their wealth genuinely without engaging in crime. Another mean of adaptation to economic strain is ritualism. In this method, economically deprived individuals have the desire to achieve economic goals but reject the institutionalized mean towards this end. Therefore, they develop other ways of acquiring wealth which may include crime and computer theft (Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach, 2015).

Question 2 What is the difference between cybercriminals and hackers? How can some hackers' actions be legal?

The difference between cybercriminals and hackers basically lies in the motives behind the actions of the two. Cybercriminals are inspired by the desire to make money or earn other scores from vandalizing data, networks, or defrauding unsuspecting internet users. Hacking is a rather broad term. It even includes communication over the online media. There are three main differences between hacking and committing cybercrime. The damage resulting from hacking is very minimal as compared to the one done by a computer criminal. This distinction is related to the primary point. Since cybercriminals look forward to financial gains through their illegal activity, they explore all the possible channels regardless of the damage resulting from them. In the process of exploration, many systems are damaged, data is lost, and programs are crushed. Another difference between the two people is that hackers adhere to an established subculture while a cybercriminal does not. A subculture is a set of values that is held by people belonging to a cohort, and which differs from the cultural perspective of the general population. A hackers subculture could prohibit malice or promote utilitarianism. While a hacker may comply with these values, a cybercriminal will often violate any set rules and regulations (Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach, 2015). Cyber criminals are what the media term as the black hat, while the hackers are called the white hat. Black hat hackers embody all the vices listed above. On the other hand, white hat hackers are not malicious, and their actions are either directing at countering the actions of white hackers or performing routine checks on computer systems for vulnerabilities.

Question 3 Define social process theories. Which learning theory is the most beneficial in the study of individuals who commit cybercrimes, and why?

Social learning theory is a perspective that the commission of crime is a process that a person learns from their environment. According to this theory, criminal activity can be passed from one person to another is a social setting. An upcoming criminal learns the tactic, rationalization, and ways of doing crime from peers and the family. Different perspectives explain how the learning process occurs. These perspectives are associated with the psychologist who developed and documented them. They are Sutherlands Differential Association Theory, Akers Social Learning Theory, and Sykes and Matzas Neutralization theory. Of all the three, Sutherlands theory provides the best lenses through which psychologists can study cybercriminal. The central assertion of this theory is that crime is learned (Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach, 2015). This concept implies that nobody is born a criminal. Criminals do not hail from lineages that committed crime in the past, but instead, criminal behavior is a spontaneous occurrence in an individual provided that they have the appropriate social predisposition. The fact that criminal behavior is learned explains why gangs are located in some suburbs while other does not have criminal gangs operating in them. The influence of peers can result in the acquisition of criminal behavior as this theory states. Sutherlands theory continues to posit that crime is more likely to develop among intimate groups than otherwise. This position explains why children growing up under the care of criminal parents are likely to become criminals in the future. This is to support the opinion that criminal behavior is learnt rather than inherited. Therefore, this theory provides the best template for study criminal gangs comprising of members of a similar ethnic group or those that come from the same neighborhood.

Question 4

Do some research and find a case of cyber harassment or cyberbullying. Explain the case, and discuss the relevant theories of criminal justice associated with the perpetrator(s).

In 2002, Raymond Blum, the former Chief Technology Officer of a Manhattan-based computer company, Askit, was charged for cyber harassment of various employees of Askit on different occasions (Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach, 2015). Blums motivation to commit these crimes derived from his unjust dismissal from the company as he claimed. Since he had all the passwords to the computer systems at Askit, Blum infiltrated the system and launched isolated attacks on the staff and the management of his former company. For example, Blum jammed the companys voice and mail communication system. Additionally, he increased the traffic flow over the companys computer network until the system failed. Askit email servers were infected with programs that automatically loaded pornographic videos. The telephone lines were automatically diverted to a site with pornographic voices. The attack was so severe that the President and CEO of the company started receiving e-greeting cards containing insensible messages like condolences and the like. In one instance, the companys president received a greeting card accompanied by a box that contained a doll. The dolls body had pins sticking from all sides, and the image was psychologically devastating. Luckily, the source of the greeting cards was successfully traced to a computer in Home Box Office where Raymond worked.

One criminal justice theory that can explain Blums cyberbullying activities is the legal theory. This theory explains how the institution of law can lead to the commission of crime. Blum was dismissed on claims that he did not consider justifiable. The law was supposed to protect him from unjust dismissal but it was not the case. Perhaps Askit had a labor policy that protected employees from unfair sacking, although this policy did work for Blum. He was disgruntled that misery befell him without the protection of the law, and the only way to express his anger was to retaliate in the best way he knew how.

The second criminal justice theory that is relevant for this case is the psychological theory. The motivation for Blum to attack his former employees was probably psychological disturbance emanating from the loss of his job. Blum was a computer specialist and headed the ICT department at Askit. The loss of this job was thus likely to affect his morale and most importantly finances. It is even possible that he developed depression from the loss of this job, which could have motivated him to attack his former employer. The social learning theory, as explained by Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach (2015) is a psychological theory that can explain why Blum engaged in this criminal cyber behavior. Being a computer geek, his coterie must have been computer experts with the knowhow to send e-greeting cards and revenge on their enemies. He therefore, learned the tactics and applied them to get his revenge on the management of Askit. He succeeded in remotely jamming multiple computer systems without detection. In fact he could have gone scot free if he did not change the attack to include abusive greeting cards. In a nutshell, both psychological and legal theories of criminal just are applicable in this case.



Taylor, R. W., Fritsch, E. J., & Liederbach, J. (2015). Digital crime and digital terrorism (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.



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