Law Enforcement & Cybersecurity: Laws & History

Instructor: Toya Stiger

Toya has a masters of computer science in computer science and has taught college students as an adjunct instructor.

In this lesson we will explain what cybersecurity is, and the history of cyber laws enacted over the last few decades making cybercrimes a criminal offense. We will also discuss the struggles law enforcement faces when dealing with cybercriminals.

Cybercrime is an alarming form of crime

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is defined as any type of criminal activity that involves a computer, a computer network, or the Internet. A cybercriminal is a person who knowingly commits cybercrime. A lot of cybercriminals commit cybercrime for personal profit, but in recent years the motives of cybercriminals have shifted to involve focus on damaging or disrupting computers and networks, or collecting personal/corporate information without permission.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) classifies various cybercrimes into three categories:

  1. Computers are the target. An example would be to discover a company's trade secrets or gain access to personal information.
  2. Computers are used as a weapon. Some examples would be virus, or denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
  3. Computers are used as an accessory in the crime. An example of this would be identity theft.

No one knows when the first official cybercrime was committed, but one of the earliest documented cybercrimes was in the early 1970s. The man was nicknamed Captain Crunch (his real name was John Draper), and he was known as a 'phone phreak'. He was a former computer programmer and engineer who figured out that using a toy whistle, found in a Captain Crunch cereal box, emitted the precise tones needed to initiate free calls on AT&T long distance phone lines. This exploit allowed him to see what lines were available for routing a new call, which in turn gave him the ability to make free long-distance calls.

Cybersecurity History

Today's society is becoming very dependent on technology. As people, businesses, and government agencies shift toward digitizing financial information, company documents, personal information and much more, it creates a breeding ground for cybercriminals to steal information. Cybercrime has increased substantially within the last decade. As a result of increased cybercrimes, state, federal, and even international agencies have taken action against them to discourage this new form of crime, by enacting regulations and laws to prosecute cybercriminals. This response is called cybersecurity.

There are three main federal cybersecurity regulations that were enacted between 1996 - 2002. These regulations are the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which includes the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). These regulations direct that all healthcare, financial, and federal agencies should protect their systems and data. However, these regulations do not mandate how the agencies should protect their digital data - they are only required to employ a 'reasonable' level of security.

The United States alone has enacted more than fifty laws and regulations that directly and indirectly deal with cybercrimes and cybersecurity. After the year 2000, approximately 125 international regions and organizations developed and signed conventions, agreements, or guidelines that helped to define ways to deal with cybercriminals.

The Department of Defense (DoD) released guidance in 2011 called the Department of Defense Strategy of Operating in Cyberspace. In this guidance they defined five strategic goals toward better enforcing cybersecurity:

  1. Build and maintain a set of forces to protect cyberspace.
  2. Defend the information portion of DoD missions.
  3. Prepare to defend the homeland and its interests against significantly disruptive and destructive activities.
  4. Research and plan contingencies useful in preventing threat escalation, and manage conflict if threats ensue.
  5. Form alliances with domestic and international entities to help deter threats and establish global security.

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