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12/16/2008
10:14 AM
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Nostalgic For Cybercrime

I spent last week serving as a juror in a murder trial. Jury duty is a bit like living in an alternate universe: You live and breathe the trial, but you can't say a word about it to anyone until it's all over. I was unable to discuss what I was hearing each day in the courtroom and prohibited from watching or reading the news so that I wouldn't inadvertently hear any press on the case. And my fellow jurors and I weren't allowed to talk at all about the case until our deliberations.

I spent last week serving as a juror in a murder trial. Jury duty is a bit like living in an alternate universe: You live and breathe the trial, but you can't say a word about it to anyone until it's all over. I was unable to discuss what I was hearing each day in the courtroom and prohibited from watching or reading the news so that I wouldn't inadvertently hear any press on the case. And my fellow jurors and I weren't allowed to talk at all about the case until our deliberations.That also meant no social networking for me. I avoided Facebook, Tweeting, and offline socializing (even with my own family). We weren't sequestered -- we went home each night -- yet we were psychologically separated from our daily lives. My fellow jurors and I nervously spent our breaks making small talk, avoiding the elephant in the room -- the sad and disturbing trial of a young man accused of an awful crime.

Needless to say, the type of crime I research and write about every day -- cybercrime -- suddenly looked trivial compared with this world of guns, drugs, drug dealers, and murder, all of which most of us had never seen firsthand until last week. But one day during a break in the jury room, after we found ourselves thrown together again and unable to acknowledge the hours of graphic testimony we had just heard, the topic of cybercrime came up. A fellow juror mentioned that he had been the victim of identity theft, and I found myself weighing in and explaining how organized and sophisticated the world of cybercrime had become. We talked about online dangers and malware infections from seemingly safe Websites, as well as online shopping risks and credit and debit card fraud.

It wasn't that cybercrime was such a compelling topic as it was a welcome distraction -- the chance to focus on something that you can't really see instead of the graphic images of crime scene photos and forensic diagrams that we had been viewing for days, the sad and startling testimonies we head heard, and the responsibility that weighed heavily on all of us. Cybercrime was a respite from the world of physical crime.

While cybercrime is driven by the same core motivation as street crime -- money -- the difference, of course, is the outcome. A cybercrime victim may lose his identity or money, but probably not his life.

-- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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