This chapter will explore the relevant literature concerning cybercrime and cybercriminal motivation. Most of the body of literature concerning cybercrime is focused on the forms, methods and operations of cybercriminals. Statistics concerning the consequences of cybercrime are also extensive, which involve identification of the economic impact of cybercrime, the social concerns about intellectual property rights, and the international politics of state-sponsored cybercriminals. However, there are very few writings concerning the exploration the motivations that drive cybercriminals engage in their illegal activity. This is a cause for concern, given that in other crimes, notably physical ones, a large body of literature has been written concerning the psychology of the criminal, whether a murderer, rapist, or robber. The scarcity of literature on cybercrime motivation is a reflection of the relative novelty of the field, and indicative of the difficulty among scholars to keep up with the breakneck speed of technological development tied to cybercrime. This chapter will look at some of these previous works, and will identify how the motivational theories on cybercriminal motivation has evolved in the past few years. Perhaps the most relevant work regarding determining the motivation for the commitment of cybercrime is the article “Cybercrime Classification: A Motivational Model” by Madison Ngafeeson. Ngafeeson clearly identifies that a key aspect of combatting any crime is looking at the motivation of the individuals committing the crime, so that the problem may be addressed at the root: “Until crime is seen from the view of motivation for crime itself, efforts to battle it will not yield their full promise.” Informed by this view, Ngafeeson sets out to create a motivational model for cybercrime, by combining three theoretical frameworks: “Maslow’s theory of hierarchical needs; Herzberg’s 1959 two-factor theory; and the 1979 work of Cohen and Felson on how crime elaborating the steps involved in the production of crime (Ngafeeson, 2010, p. 7).” The Cohen and Felson work provides the framework for Ngafeeson, which identifies that crime involves “motivated offenders and suitable targets (individuals or their property), in the absence of effective guardians (Ngafeeson, 2010, p. 4).” Basically, a criminal will always have a target, and will commit the crime only when there are no barriers to the criminal act. The motivation that pushes a cybercriminal is shaped by economic, social, cultural, educational and biological “determinants (Ngafeeson, 2010, p. 4),” and choosing which of these determinants play the largest role in influencing the criminal to act is the question of motivation. In Ngafeeson’s model, the main motivation of the cybercriminal is dictated by Maslow’s theory of hierarchical needs. The pyramid structure of Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that the higher up the hierarchy an individual is, the less likely that person is to become a cybercriminal. Moreover, the five levels in Maslow’s hierarchy would then provide a classification for cybercriminals. Ngafeeson also points to the studies of Brown regarding cost-benefit analysis, where the criminal will assess the costs and the potential benefits of the crime as part of the “barrier (Ngafeeson, 2010, p. 9)” that would prevent the motivation from translating into action. In this case, the unique aspect of cybercrime’s reliance on technology available is an integral part of the cost-benefit analysis. What Ngafeeson has presented is a very basic motivational model for cybercrime. However, his usage of Maslow’s hierarchy is problematic, given how the theory is already heavily contested in recent literature concerning human needs. Moreover, Ngafeeson’s article is lacking in a more nuanced exploration of the role of technology in cybercrime. His work is almost a restatement of established motivational models on criminal motivation, without any clear distinction as to why...
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Ngafeeson, M. (2010). Cybercrime Classification: A Motivational Model . Edinburg: College of Business Administration, The University of Texas-Pan American.
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