Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: April, 2020
Department of Sociology, Lagos State University
The increasing accessibility to the Internet is marred by new waves of crime such as website cloning. Although, there have been studies on cybercrime, the traits and recruitment system for youth involved have remained largely unexplored. The study adopted a diffusion of innovation and space transition theories. The study design was exploratory involving the use of qualitative methods of data collection. Four localities with the preponderance of cybercrime in Lagos State were purposively selected: Surulere, Ikotun, Badagry and Bariga. Data were collected from 48 youth involved in cybercrime (guided referral method), officials of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (4), Nigeria Police (4) and cybercafé managers (8) through In-depth Interviews, Case studies, and Key Informant Interviews. Through participant observation, youth involved in cybercrime were interacted with repeatedly for five years. The data were content analysed. Youth involved in cybercrime were mostly identified with pseudonyms such as Package Boys, Apako Master and Mighty. They often have hardened fingertips and end of palms, and they dress excessively, adorned with jewellery. Recruitments into cybercrime were purely voluntary, but the initiation ceremony included adaptation and integration. Youth involved in cybercrime evolved distinct traits and were sustained by the sophistication of cybercrime in Lagos State, Nigeria.
Keywords: Accessibility, Cybercrime, Observation, Diffusion of Innovation, Space Transition Theories, Youth Involved and Nigeria.
With the ever-increasing pace of development, cybercrime has become an inevitable and a more specialised area of crime in the evolving society. Unlike the advanced societies, developing societies have almost no modalities put in place to curb the excesses of cybercriminals. In fact, to out-smart the cybercrime-curbing institutions, cybercriminals have connections with one another and with members of the advanced societies to learn more advanced skills. As a result, specialized skills are also required by the combating institutions for cybercrime to be controlled. As such, exposure to the techniques of cybercriminals would contribute positively to the efforts of these institutions.
Similarly, according to Zero Tolerance (2006) cybercriminals are usually within the ages of 18 and 30 years and are youth who are outside secondary schools, but are either in the university or are about to be admitted into the university. This is to say that the youth experiencing educational stagnancy is vulnerable to recruitment into cyber criminality. Aside from this, youth socialization towards cybercrime is also encouraged since at that age bracket, and youth tend to associate more with themselves than with individuals in other age-groups.
In a report by McConnell International Survey (2000), over fifty national governments were asked to provide laws that would be used to prosecute criminal acts involving both private and public sector computers. Countries that provided legislation were evaluated to determine whether their criminal statutes had been extended into cyber-space to cover ten different types of cybercrime in four categories: data-related crimes, network-related crimes, the crime of access and computer-related crimes. Thirty–three of the countries surveyed have not yet updated their laws to address any type of cybercrime. Of the remaining countries, nine have enacted legislation to address five or fewer types of cybercrime and 10 have updated their laws to prosecute against six or more of the 10 types of cybercrime. The recent cybercrime law of Nigeria is mere pronouncement with little or no modalities and equipment for its enforcement (Anthony, 2015).
Before passing the cybercrime law in 2015, EFCC had set up modalities that were expected to control the excesses of youth involved in cybercrime. The first major mechanism was the raids on cybercafés, car shops and hotels based on the legal rights of the EFCC as speculated by the law (Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006, ss. 12 & 13), which also made the registration of all cybercafés and Internet Service Providers mandatory. These raids were carried out in all parts of the country (Eboibi, 2015). According to Odapu (2008), cybercrime is at an all-time high in Nigeria as cybercafé owners, hotels and landlords sometimes collaborate with perpetrators.
Youth who are involved in cybercrime abound, but strict measures would reduce the excesses of these cybercriminals. Without strict measures, Nigerians in the cashless society would only join the “susceptible population” in the global society. The vulnerability of the global society to the risks of the Internet necessitated the need to reveal the identities, lifestyles, and initiation patterns of the youth involved in cybercrime.
2. Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework for this study borrows a lot from the diffusion of innovation theory of Rogers (2003); the globalization theory of Castells (1996); differential association theory of Sutherland (1937); and space transition theory of Jaishankar (2008). These four theories form a continuum of a theoretical explanation for cybercrime.
According to Rogers (1995, 2003), the characteristics of innovation, as perceived by the members of a social system, determines its rate of adoption. To him, adoption of innovation is a 5-step process that involves: the knowledge; persuasion; decision; implementation and confirmation of innovation decision. The perceived attributes of innovation influence this processes of adoption. The innovation of the Internet fits perfectly into the idea of Rogers (2003). In the sense that it has a relative advantage over previous technologies, to a reasonable degree, it is compatible with the existing norms and values; it is easy to learn, can be tried, and has presented observable results. The 5-step process has facilitated the adoption of the Internet (Atkin et al., 1998; Lin, 2001; Nguyen, 2003; Nguyen et al., 2005; Papacharissi and Rubin, 2000; Salwen et al., 2005).
As a continuum, the globalization theory asserts that space and distance disappear when people who are in different locations are linked to a common communication technology simultaneously experience the same events. Globalization is concerned with the use of communication technologies such as cell phones, the Internet, SMS and other related devices and applications. These facilities enable people across the world to simultaneously and interactively experience and organic the events together, facilitating the growth of global consciousness through the process of reflexivity. Thus, globalization changes notions of present and absent (Monge, 1988; Walters, 1995). In this case, space and time become fundamental materials (Castells 1996). This is a technological approach to globalization as it explains the role played by the use of the Internet in achieving global integration in such a manner that crime becomes inevitable.
In the differential association theory, Sutherland (1947), sees normative conflict as the cause of crime in society. Normative conflict is associated with advanced societies because of its inherent characteristics (Matsueda, 2000). At the level of the individual, the process of differential association provides a social psychological explanation of how normative conflict in society translates into individual criminal acts. According to differential association, criminal behaviour is learned in the process of communication in intimate groups. The content of learning includes two important elements. First are the requisite skills and techniques for committing a crime, which can be complicated and specialized skills of computer fraud. These skills are necessary, but insufficient to produce crime. Second are definitions favourable and unfavourable to crime. These definitions are motives, verbalizations or rationalizations that make crime justified or unjustified (Matsueda 2000). The definitions are favourable to cybercrime “This is a safe and easy way of making money,” and “No one can know that I am the one since they cannot see me”. These are products of the conditions presented by the Internet. Therefore, the individual level hypothesis of differential association theory states that a person will engage in criminal behaviour if the following three conditions are met (Matsueda 1988). The person has learned the requisite skills and techniques for committing a crime; 2. The person has learned excess of definitions favourable to crime over definitions unfavourable to crime; and 3. The person has the objective opportunity to carry out the crime. Under these three conditions, crime is inevitable.
The space transition theory can be considered as a ‘twin’ of the differential association theory in this context. The theory is an explanation of the nature of the behaviour of the persons who bring out their conforming and non-conforming behaviour in the physical space and the cyberspace. The theory involves the movement of a person from the physical space to the cyberspace and vice versa (Jaishankar, 2008). As individuals alternate between the spaces, the theory argues that people behave differently. The opportunity to behave differently and perpetrate a crime is provided because persons with repressed behaviour offline can perpetrate crime online due to the flexibility of identity and the conflict of norms between the physical world and the cyberspace.
The analyses establish interplay among four theoretical positions and place more relevance on the fact that globalization results out of technological diffusion and cybercrime become the product of this established linkage. The differential association theory comes in at the point of decision-making because this is when the influence of cybercrime begins, and a person identifies with definitions favourable to cybercrime. According to Mills and Blossfeld (2005), modern ICTs influence communication between individuals, organizations and communities by effectively rendering physical space and distance irrelevant.
As a sensitive study, the study utilised qualitative techniques in data generation. The qualitative approach allows the researcher to gain valuable insights through the subjective narratives of the respondents by giving us clearer understanding of the participants’ perspectives. This ensures that data are rich in narratives and experiences.
The study was conducted in Lagos State as a primate state in Nigeria. Four localities were purposively selected from the stratified localities in Lagos State based on digital divide. The study therefore, selected Surulere, Bariga, Ikotun, and Badagry in this regard.
The youth involved in cybercrime is the unit of analysis. The study categorised youth involved in cybercrime as individuals who were aged between 15 and 30 years and engaged in cybercrime. A total of 48 were selected through guided referral method that were aided by other youth and cybercafé managers.
Forty In-depth interviews (IDI) were conducted with youth involved in cybercrime (including those in the nests of the enforcement agencies) and were selected through snowballing, informal personal interaction and observation as sampling frame could not be compiled. The choice of the selection process was based on the fact that a familiar and conducive environment must be created for youth involved in cybercrime in order for them to divulge relevant information aside from the establishment of a relationship of trust. Eight case studies of successful youth involved in cybercrime were also conducted.
Although, the youth involved in cybercrime is the unit of analysis, cybercafé managers, and officers of the law like Economic and Financial Crime Commission and Nigeria Police Force were also considered as a key control group for an adequate study. As such, officials were also selected from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Police. These two agencies are directly involved in curbing cybercrime. These officials were also selected because it was thought that they might have information regarding the features of cybercriminals, the prevalence and frequency of cybercrime, and the direction of the motives in cybercrime. Four officials of the EFCC and 4 police officers were also purposively selected directly from the department that handles cases of cybercrime. In addition to the above, two cybercafés were also purposively selected in each of the selected localities. The cybercafé managers were selected because of the client-server relationship among the computers in the cybercafé.
In addition to the above, secondary source of data were scam e-mails collected from potential victims of Internet scam and email correspondences with youth involved in cybercrime.
The qualitative data generated through IDI and case studies were analysed with the use of content analysis and ethnographic summary that was enhanced with computer analysis.
4. Characteristics of Youth Involved in Cybercrime (YICC)
This section is a revelation of the identities of youth involved in cybercrime. The study revealed that a majority of those who perpetrate cybercrime are young individuals. According to the data, less than half of the studied population were between the age of 15 years and 19 years; a little more were between 20 years and 24 years; while the remaining few were 25 years and above. These statistics are in line with the age description of youth involved in cybercrime (YICC). All of the respondents, including the law enforcement agents, said that the majority of those involved in cybercrime are within the age group of 15 to 30 years.
A youth involved in cybercrime said:
All age groups are into cybercrime. Some so many older men look very responsible and even act responsibly that are also involved in cybercrime. But young people have the highest proportion of perpetrators, and the number keeps increasing (IDI/19 years/ Male/ June 2012).
A police officer also said:
These young people are usually within the age group 15 to 30 years, and they are in almost every residential area in Lagos. They operate from almost everywhere, and they prefer to operate from the safest spot. These safe spots may include hotel or even the parents’ homes (KII/34 years/ Male/ April 2014).
Aside from the age category, the study also found so many other attributes to include mode of dressing, favourite hangouts, and time of going out, areas with the highest population of youth involved in cybercrime, physiological traits, and manners of address among/within the group. All these features put together to summarise the definition of a Youth Involved in Cybercrime (YICC), according to an officer of the law.
The first thing that they do after making their first money is buying very expensive phones, buy a car and go clubbing frequently. When passing by any police station, post, checkpoints, or even a police officer, they feel uneasy. If you stop them from asking for anything, the first thing they offer is money. Few are very smart (owing to their long years of experience), when I shake them, I use style to feel their palms. The tip of their fingers and the lower palm by the wrist are always hard. This is associated to long use of the laptop—the positioning of the hands causes the lower palm, and the tip of the fingers is from the pressing (KII/ 37years/ Police/March 2014).
Another officer of the law asserted that:
They are usually known by their dressing style, tattoos, and abnormal dressing style. The abnormal dressing here refers to “sagged” jeans and colour combination in dressing. They also do not call themselves by their real names. Most of them banish their real names to the unconscious to further hide their identities. Like for instance here, they use names like “don” and “parole” and so many other names (KII/ 36years / Police/ March 2014/).
An EFCC officer noted that:
Majority of them are from poor homes, and about 10% of them come from well-to-do families. Like for example, a Covenant University student was caught recently. That student is not from a poor home. These guys are very intelligent in the use of the Internet and are quite educated. Within their cycle, they use slangs that a third party may never decode and they have names for so many things and people. For example, a laptop is called “lapi” or “igba aje”, and they call their victims names like “mayi” “maga” or “mugu” (KII/ 31/ EFCC/ March 2014).
Another police officer also said:
Many a time, one will notice these youth when they are overly dressed—bogus wristwatches, colourful hand bands, excessive dressing accessories, colourful hairstyle, expensive cars, reckless driving, among other traits. When accosted by the police, they do not look at us straight in the eyes before responding to our question. Although they are everywhere in Lagos, the majority of them are found in Oke-Ira, Alagbole, Festac/Amuwo Odofin, and Ojodu. They are also called “street boys”. They hardly come out in the morning as they make sure that they avoid the police, and they also drive or trek through comfort zones. They know where the checkpoints usually are (KII/34 Police/ March 2014).
Another even said:
Although, we hardly arrest them at the various “joints”, but we usually identify them with the way they spend at these “joints”, especially when one of them is celebrating the success of cybercrime or birthdays. They equally do the same when any one of their girlfriends is celebrating birthdays. One thing they have in common is that they keep a stable girlfriend that is known to others, but they keep “flings”. Lest I forget, these boys usually buy most expensive alcoholic drinks at the drinking joints. (KII/36/EFCC/March 2014)
The data also revealed the many names that youth involved in cybercrime can be called. These names also have their undertones. All of the respondents confirmed that the public call all youth involved in cybercrime “yahoo boy”. In an attempt by one of the respondents to explain how the popular name “yahoo-yahoo” came into being, he noted that:
Yahoo is a free mail service provider, where people can open an email, send, and receive emails. This is associated with the origin of cybercrime. Over time, there was a yahoo messenger where there are chat rooms. You can meet several people from different parts of the world. People started dating and began to take advantage of this by deceiving and lying to others to get money, and this is the general origin of cybercrime. That is why the name “Yahoo-yahoo” was given to the activity. (IDI/21/YICC/June 2012)
Believing that there is the possibility for a girl to be involved in cybercrime, an EFCC officer confirmed that:
The gender of the opposite sex protects them. (KII/36/YEFCC/March 2014)
A police officer also reiterated that:
We have information that there is female involvement in cybercrime, but we have never caught any. Their gender protects them and they also aid and abet boys. Generally, they are not as adventurous as the boys, but they are good instruments for aiding and abetting. Most times in dating, female voices, pictures and even videos are necessary. As such, females are a part of the instrument needed for successful online dating (KII/34/EFCC/March 2014).
The name “yahoo” is culled out from the popular free email server that everyone has access to. In recent times, some of them are called “yahoo plus”. This particular terminology is coined out from the belief that some of them use metaphysical means to extort and collect money from their victims, also called “clients”. Some of them also engage in ritual killing for status validation. That is, maintenance of the status quo that they have hitherto achieved. Tade (2013), in the paper titled “A Spiritual Dimension to Cybercrime in Nigeria: The ‘Yahoo Plus’ Phenomenon”, presents the spiritual dimensions through which cybercrime is perpetrated. He also presents the local names by which youth involved in cybercrime are popularly called in Ghana and Cameroun.
However, a few of youth involved in cybercrime asserted that those successful youth involved in cybercrime that use metaphysical means to maintain their status quo are called “gbowopa” or “gbowodaku” or “yahoo plus” within the group.
A youth involved in cybercrime claimed that:
Some of us use tortoise power—while browsing in the house, we may put our feet on a live tortoise while browsing. The belief here is that through the process, one is endowed with the gimmicks and mischief of tortoise (IDI/24/YICC/June 2012).
Another claimed that:
You can also derive spiritual power from a woman. I have two instances. In one case, the youth involved in cybercrime may be sleeping with a particular girl whose spirit may facilitate his fortune in cybercrime. He does not necessarily need to use “jazz” or ‘juju”; HE will just derive his luck from the girl. In the second instance, a guy may use the “juju” on the girl, and the money may start coming in through cybercrime or other means (IDI/23/YICC/June 2012).
A police officer said:
A supposed “yahoo boy” was caught in Festac with a calabash containing blood under his car seat. This particular boy might have been involved in cybercrime before, but with this calabash, he might have gone into ritual killing (KII/32 years/Male/April 2014).
A youth involved in cybercrime also claimed that:
Some of us use several other means like spiritual rub ointments on palms before browsing, sit on traditional grinders while browsing, lick powdery concoctions before talking to clients, and we even recite incantations before and even while browsing. All of these are necessary facilitators because our clients are now smarter (IDI/20/YICC/March 2014).
As far as any youth involved in cybercrime is concerned, what they do is another form of “work”, and this represents the inherent meaning of “work” tagged “ise” amongst them. “Ise’ represents what they do. “Scammer”, “Apako master” and “Package boys” are names given to the youth involved in cybercrime that has mastered the art of lying and deceit. Other titles include “Yahoo boy”, “Gbowopa”, “Gbowodaku”, “Yahoo Plus”, “Yahoo Plus Plus”, and “Ise”.
They are predominantly males and are between 15 and 30 years old. They are also versed in the use of computer and Internet applications. They are known for hanging out at clubs with friends who also engage in cybercrime at other places where there can be an open display of money and uncontrolled spending sprees.
These YICC also take expensive drinks and are known to visit social places like Kings’ Hotel, “Aso Rock”, Sycomore, Paradise, Whispering Palms, Suntan Beach, Morgan (map Bar), Bush Flavor, Airways, Goodies, Bar 53, Magat, Ozone and Banilux among others. Zero Tolerance (2006), a publication of the EFCC, in the section titled “The Image of a Yahoo Boy”, identified some of the qualities of these cybercriminals.
Table 4.1: Simple Ranks of the Features of Youth Involved in Cybercrime
The study found that the youth involved in cybercrime is just like any other person on the Internet; the only difference is the “intention”. The identities of youth involved in cybercrime is quite a difficult task to achieve, but their mode of dressing can identify a majority of them; names they are addressed by; certain physiological traits like tattoos, and hardened tips of fingers and palms; money spending attitude in public places; favourite places of communion; and sometimes, the time of the day when they choose to go out. They are associated with the love for trendy clothes and other accessories like wristwatches, hand band and other things related to fashion in terms of how these accessories are worn. The fact that they are not called their original names gives them another identity altogether. Most times, the adopted names do not connect to the original names in any way, but their finesse in cybercrime perpetration. Within the circle, the given names may never be known.
Owing to the long period that they spend online, the tips of their fingers are hardened, and the lower part of the palm by the wrist is also hardened, because that part of the hand rest on the laptop/tabletop as the case may be. Some of these young individuals also have tattoos on their body parts. In some cases, they even have as tattoos, the names of their favourite girlfriends. Zero Tolerance (2006a) also confirms some of the features above. Specifically, it identifies the age and knowledge of the use of the computer. Jansen and Veenstra (2011) similarly assert that youth involved in cybercrime are not highly educated, majority of them are boys, and they are freer online than offline. Lu (2006), however, notes that they are usually between the age of 18 and 23 years. Certain individuals may have part of these features, but not altogether, like in the case of youth involved in cybercrime.
5. Findings and Discussions
5.1 Recruitment Process of Youth into Cybercrime
Another focus of this study was to investigate the recruitment process of youth involved in cybercrime. Data revealed that a majority of the respondents claimed that they were involved in cybercrime by choice; they were attracted by the act itself and were later influenced more by those that were around and engaging in it. Most claimed that they were influenced by friends, while others claimed that family members influenced them. One respondent said:
I joined after I started visiting the cybercafé, and I noticed that everyone around was just chatting with people online. I joined the crew, and I started chatting regularly. Over time, I mastered it (IDI/ 22 years/ YICC/March 2014).
I have a fake driver’s license that I use for driving. I am not exactly a qualified driver, but after my secondary school, I started learning mechanical engineering. My trainer then got me this driver’s licence. Initially, I was merely collecting money for the other youth involved in cybercrime in my area. Later, I started running my shows. I collect money for them, and I also make my own. I take a share out of every money I help others to collect (CS/28 years/ YICC/ December 2014).
An investigation into when the youth involved in cybercrime perpetrated the first successful cybercrime revealed that more than half of the respondents had been involved in cybercrime for between five and seven years. The remaining, who was just less than half of the population, had been in the act for more than eight years. One of them claimed
I am not sure of when “yahoo” started in Nigeria, but I am sure that I am one of the few boys that started making money out of it. Initially, I could not even take the money home, but later I started buying things. When my father found out, I moved out of the house and went to my deceased grandparents’ house (CS/26 years/YICC/June 2012).
Rational choice is core in the recruitment as almost all the respondents agreed that the most attractive part of cybercrime is the fact everyone is invisible and then the money one makes a lot. The remaining five (5) per cent of the study population believed that aside from the money, committing crime online is a lot of fun. This is to say that the Internet itself plays a vital role in the recruitment of youth involved in cybercrime. One of the respondents said:
Browsing itself is an adventure. The Internet is an interesting environment where one can learn a lot of things. Aside from the cybercrime, one can also watch movies and listen to music. All of the time that I browse or chat, I listen to music. It aids the way I work (IDI/16 years/Male, June 2012).
My first venture into cybercrime fetched me $2350. I was the happiest young guy in the world. I was barely 18 years of age. I adopted many names and many looks. After making my first money, I just couldn’t stop anymore. I could remember about 1 month after I made my first money, I also made 6000 Canadian Dollars through Qchecks. Making money makes me smile, and as far as I am concerned, this is life (CS/ 26/ Male/ June/ 2012).
I was staying with my mother in Ibadan until I finished my secondary school. Then I moved to Lagos to stay with my father and his other children. Before I got admission into the university, I noticed that my half-brothers that were then in the university would come home and never ask Daddy for money. They will just sit around with their systems to browse. When I eventually gained admission into the University for the Diploma Programme, I was compelled to ask them about what they do to make money. Then, I started learning. Ever since then, I never looked back (CS/28 years/ Male/ December 2013).
All respondents argued that cybercrime involves a form of learning that is different from regular chatting, that everyday chatting is legitimate and straight forward. For cybercrime, special skills have to be learned, and along with the skills, the individual must be patient and should be able to identify a potential victim after the first contact. Aside from knowing who, he also needs to work with the timing depending on the country where he is domiciled and master the Internet language and culture. One respondent said:
Depending on the technique, special skills must be learned. We all started from chatting and dating, but today, there are different techniques that depend on one’s intelligence, interaction with other people, and ability to invent new techniques (IDI/18/YICC/ June 2012).
I learned my initial skill from my brothers. I paid special attention because I was actually made to understand that it was” express road” to wealth. Truly, it is. In the last 6 years, I have used 3 different cars, live in a 3-bedroom apartment, and at present, I live very well without any job (CS/28/YICC/ Dec 2013).
Another then said:
Cybercrime (Yahoo) is not for those that are dumb; you need to be intelligent. Knowing how to use the computer is just a basic skill, and you will agree with me. If I say that learning computer is very hard for many people, learning “yahoo” is even harder. There are newer techniques to be learned on a regular basis, and also there is always online restriction stopping many of our operations. So, we always need to improve faster than online security (CS/ 26/ Male/ June 2012).
Many of the youth involved in cybercrime were relatively unknown until they made their money. In most cases, the amount made brings unusual popularity and recognition. Regarding when a youth involved in cybercrime gets recognized, the majority of the respondents asserted that a “yahoo boy” becomes known and recognized after making his first money. A few, however, claimed that the youth involved in cybercrime is first known during an interaction with others at popular “hangouts” and at times at the cybercafés, especially at the initial learning stage. One respondent said:
As far as I am concerned, recognition is associated with success. When he makes his first money, he gets recognized. For example, I came out of the totally hidden identity in 2004 when I made about $8,000 in 1 month. I started buying things and even started dating all sorts of girls, including those that were older. Sometimes, I pick random telephone numbers to pick blind dates (CS/ 26/ Male/ June 2012).
I am recognized. I don’t make so much money, but my money is regular. I am never broke, and I use only one technique. On a regular basis, I collect between 100 and 200 dollars. At least, I must get that 3 times in a week. There is no suspicion when the money is small, and I am not a reckless spender. So my group recognizes and respect me (IDI/ 23/ Male/June 2012).
Investigation into the amount ever made from involvement in cybercrime revealed that very few of the respondents made less than $2000 at once, a little less than half made between $2000 and $5000 at once, less than half made between $5000 and $10,000 at once, while very few made more than $10000. This money made at once does not mean the money made every day; there might be a time lag of one week, one month or even more. A respondent noted:
Sometimes when we make such amount, we may need to go into hiding—run from friends, police, family members and other nosy people for security reasons. We may run away from online transactions for security reasons. With blackberry phones, we remain online with those who can give us vital information (CS/28/Male/ Dec. 2013).
I have seen a guy who made 30million naira, but he ran mad as soon as he saw the money (CS/Male/June 2012).
A police officer confirmed that:
We hear rumours of huge amounts like 10,000, 30,000 dollars all at once and we believe that those people who work with the banks are aiding and abetting. We once arrested someone who made 2,500 dollars (KII/34/Police/March 2014).
According to observations from the study, there are six stages in the initiation process. These stages are:
1. Adaptation: This is the stage when a person gets used to the virtual environment. As established in the early part of this study, every individual must at first get acquainted with the Internet environment. This is just like adapting to a new environment like the virtual world. This does not necessarily involve learning how to become a cybercriminal.
2. Familiarisation: this is a pre-integration stage that involves what youth referred to as “famz”. This is a deliberate attempt by an intending youth who voluntarily wants to engage in cybercrime to interact with other youth that is already involved in cybercrime. This stage usually begins at the cybercafé and social avenues in the area. It is a very demanding stage of the initiation process, because the larger group may not allow this integration unless certain conditions are met. These conditions include:
a. A member having an interest in the individual;
b. The individual is well-skilled in other areas of computer (formatting, repairs, installations);
c. The individual possesses an international passport or other forms of identification that can facilitate the collection of money or creation of offshore accounts; and
d. The individual has other skills that are considered valuable.
This stage directly leads to the next stage.
3. Integration: At this stage, the youth is in the trainee category. The youth is introduced into basic education in cybercrime. Usually, the youth begins with chatting. This is a pure learning stage as the new entrant is not allowed to make meaningful contributions in the course of learning cybercrime. At almost every point in time, the youth is guided and may be asked to serve other purposes, depending on his previous skills. The youth is introduced to only basic cybercrime, but as many as possible.
4. Independence: After thorough basic training, the intending youth is allowed to operate alone. This is the defining stage of youth involvement in cybercrime. In fact, the stage determines the recognition/prestige the youth would earn within the subculture. The youth is left to work alone in order to define his own perspective in cybercrime. The youth put together all that he had learned at the integration stage to identify and extort potential “clients”. The youth is at liberty to improvise and sometimes devise unique methods that might be productive. In the end, what matters is the success of these individual efforts. This stage defines what status the youth would occupy in the group and the prestige that would be allocated to this status. Aside from this, the youth also earn his unique identity that is the alias he would adopt in the group.
5. Collaboration: After earning his unique identity by proving to the other members of the subculture that he has all that it takes to perpetuate successful cybercrime and even innovate some techniques, the youth may now play vital roles in what others do. The roles may include advising others, helping with strategies, or even facilitating the transfer of the money. There is a fluidity of status; therefore, a person who joined the group last may not occupy the bottom part of the ladder at this stage of the initiation. Where he would be placed was defined at the stage of independence. For instance, a new youth that makes $30,000 in his first venture may climb straight to the top of the hierarchy. Then, he will begin to play very active roles in other people’s dealing.
6. Identification: If this is Maslow’s presentation of motivation, this stage of initiation would be that of “self-actualization”. The youth that has earned his independence and proven that he is capable of the task would live up to that expectation and respected accordingly. This is the stage when his popularity grows. He is usually known beyond his own immediate locality.
6. Conclusion and Recommendations
Youthful exuberance plays a role in defining what the youth perceives the Internet as. To many, it is everything that includes an environment where one can exhibit all behaviours that the society could generally frown at with hidden identities. How a youth defines, the Internet can be associated with what the child is exposed to and the knowledge of sites where ordinarily children are not expected to visit. The influence of peers who are also exposed to the Internet is very strong and can affect children of all classes, although it affects children from poor backgrounds more.
Based on these findings, the study has come up with many recommendations. These recommendations are directed at parents, the government, law enforcement agencies, and teachers at all levels of education. On the part of parents, it is expected that they monitor the places their children visit and the time they leave and arrive at home by stylishly and strategically supervising the things they do at home, especially when they are communicating on the telephone. They are also expected to check the behavioural dispositions of these youth. Where the parents are rich enough to provide wireless Internet services at home, the use of the Internet should be supervised within the wireless network. Parents should maintain administrator-client interaction among the systems, such that the parents will take charge of the administrator in order to monitor the sites visited. Within the same network system, certain sites must be restricted, especially sites where potential victims are found.
The government is expected to cultivate a relationship with other countries on the issues surrounding the control of cybercrime. Through this relationship, they can formulate policies that would specifically address cybercrime. The need for collaboration is hinged on the fact that the Internet environment is borderless and represents the world with the highest population. These policies must have room for expansion and accommodation of other policies. The policies must also move at the same pace or almost the same pace as cybercrime. Setting up EFCC, ICPC, and SFU in addition to the Nigeria Police Force has proven to be inadequate. As a result, the government should establish a law enforcement agency tagged with a name that states that it is established to tackle cybercrime with agents selected from these already established agencies. These agents should also be made to undergo Hi-tech training in order to have a clearer and better understanding of cybercrime. Having done all these, the government should then pronounce the content of cybercrime law and state all offences that are in these categories.
While the government is working with the recommendations above, the already established law enforcement agencies should put in place internal engineering that would increase its capabilities and mastery of the use of the Internet. In addition to these, international training should be encouraged so that the agencies can keep abreast of information on the global menace of the Internet. The latter is founded on the belief that cybercrime is also learned online where borders do not exist.
Since it is a fact that all youth involved in cybercrime have basic education, that is, they are educated enough to read, write, and speak the English language to a considerable extent, teachers at all levels of education should adopt the use of the Internet for educational purposes. Notes should be distributed online, and materials for academic works should also be encouraged to be shared online. The point here is that if more time is spent online for academic purposes, less time would be spent on vices that may include cybercrime.
Finally, advertisements, pop-ups, and other media should be used online to campaign against cybercrime openly. In fact, it should go beyond the Internet by extending to television and radio. In addition to this, bank management and control by the Central Bank of Nigeria and individual banks should adopt stricter measures in controlling the flow of money into the banks and away from the banks. Domiciliary accounts should be created for an individual on the basis of the supply of concrete identity and letters from organisations where they have been employed.
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