by Solange Ghernaouti-Hélie, Jens Tölle and Jean-Jacques Quisquater

44 years ago Charles P. Lickson in a well-known paper "Privacy and the computer age" (IEEE Spectrum, October 1968, pp. 58-63) began his abstract with the prediction “By the year 2000, Americans could have computers and robots in the home - and virtually no privacy”. Now, in 2012, we could say better “virtually no privacy and a lot of cybercrimes”.

Cybercriminality has become a curse of society that affects everybody, nationally and internationally. Individuals, companies, institutions and governments may both become victims as well as (involuntary) helpers of cyber criminals. Inextricably associated with cyberspace, it is a reflection of the evolution of criminal practices that have adapted to the world of information and communication technologies.

Due to the world-wide distributed nature of today’s cyberspace, its infrastructure, services and user groups, criminals using this cyberspace for their activities form a severe challenge: This includes but is not limited to gathering of information on cybercrime related incidents, identification of proper persons in charge, or finding applicable laws. Often competence and responsibility are controversial.

The same holds for privacy: A multitude of cultures, different laws and different opinions makes it hard to agree on internationally standardised approaches.

This special edition of ERCIM represents a stage in the understanding of cybercriminality with reference to the need for the protection of digital privacy. It has to be recognised that the idea of digital privacy often suffers at the hands of information and communication technologies, and that personal data are intangible assets of great value, as much for legal entities as for criminals.

Although far from exhaustive and unable to cover all the aspects of both the fight against cybercriminality and the desire for the protection of privacy, this issue nonetheless presents an indication of various research projects and organisations that are tackling these problems and aims to inform readers about the kinds of technological measures being introduced to contribute towards better handling the vulnerabilities that can be exploited for malicious reasons. In fact cybersecurity is becoming a new and separate field of study that is ready for exploration in an interdisciplinary way, drawing upon the knowledge and techniques established in the fields of law, criminology, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science and digital technologies. This latter aspect is emphasised in this issue, although it should be stressed that the articles selected do not necessarily reflect the entirety of research activities across Europe and thus do not represent all of the academic institutions and research centres that are active and creative in this field.

The reader will find articles in this issue of ERCIM, covering different areas of research and showing the broad diversity of cybercrime and privacy. As far as research is concerned, the efficient understanding of cybercriminality needs now, more than ever, policies for supporting interdisciplinary research that encourages the decompartmentalization of traditional fields of research in favour of innovative projects in respect of the way of thinking about information security and about protecting assets. To this we should add a clear willingness to work together so that from an international perspective Europe will become a key player in the struggle against cybercriminality.

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Next issue: July 2023
Special theme:
"Eplainable AI"
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