Digital Crime Theories

Digital Crime Theories

Assignment 2:

CIS 170

Digital Crime Theories

Digital Crime is crime in which a computer or network is involved. There are many types of cybercrimes and they are caused for a variety of reasons. There are several theories that have been developed to attempt to identify the causes of digital crime. A man walks into a company dressed as an electrician hired to fix a problem. Without hesitation the secretary grants him access to the building with a master key. He in turns goes into the computer room and hack into the company’s system. He steals very valuable, and personal information on employees and customers. Why did he commit this crime? Did he do it because he thought he could get away with it or did he do it because he has seen the same kind of crime committed by people who get away with it? The Choice and Learning theories are two of the theories that will be discussed.

Some people commit crimes because they have weighed the risks and benefits of the crime, and more than likely if a crime was committed then the benefits have overshadowed the risk. If the risks outweigh the benefits then criminals will not commit a crime. This is where the choice theory comes into play. This theory simply identifies that since criminal made a coherent decision to commit a particular crime then the crime should be the focus rather than that criminal. When you hear such policies as, “three strikes you’re out,” then know that they were based on the choice theory. The basis of the Choice Theory is to have criminals fear the punishment and hopefully this discourages them from committing crimes. “Since humans are hedonistic, efforts should be placed on making the risks of committing digital crime higher than any benefit derived from committing the offenses.” (Taylor, 2015) This simply means that anyone in support of the Choice Theory feels that if the punishment is big, and bad enough then criminals will think twice before committing a crime. They will choose not to commit the crime in fear of the punishment they will receive. The Choice theory can be related to any crime because there is always some form of punishment for a person that commits a crime. What is crucial is that those whom we punish should have had, when they acted, the normal capacities, physical and mental, for abstaining from what it forbids, and a fair opportunity to exercise these capacities (Wishart, 2013). A computer hacker is in the process of hacking into a system in hopes of stealing credit card information on customers. Right has he begins a broadcast interruption comes across the television outlining the punishment for criminals who commit computer crimes. It says that they will serve mandatory jail time with a minimum of ten years, and a fine accessible at 5,000 per 50.00 stolen. The hacker stope the process and understands that his crime is not worth the punishment he will endure.

The Differential Association Theory falls under the umbrella of Social Process Theories and learning theories. Social process theories concentrates on the association among crime and socialization. Social learning theory has been called the dominant theory of crime and delinquency in the United States (Jensen, 2009). More importantly the social process theory examine the influence of factors such as family, peer group relationships as well as failure in school. In the Learning Theory, it states that since an individual learns the skills, attitudes and rationalizations necessary to commit crimes that is why they do it. They “learn” these acts from peers, parents and/or friends and family. They them deem these acts appropriate. Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory argues that criminal behavior is a function of learning. He also states that it is not a result of biological or psychological problems rather that of learning. There has to be an interaction with peers, siblings and parents for this learning of criminal behavior to take place. Many people speculate that people learn criminal behaviors from watching them on television, but Sutherland did not find a relationship between media and criminal behaviors. This theory relates to crime because they learn criminal act through interaction with others that commit crime. A young boy lives with his parents who are in and out of jail resulting from various computer crimes. He is around this type of activity all the time and eventually gets to a point where he wants money of his own. He starts to exemplify the same behaviors as his parents. This criminal behavior is now a learned behavior this boy has picked up from his parents.

Along with both the Choice and Leaning Theory, comes the subculture theory. A subculture is characterized by a set of norms, values and beliefs that are different from the central culture. Therefore, individuals behave in a way that is regular with their values, norms, and beliefs which may sometimes conflict with the law. It is now understood that some types of crime is due to the presence of subcultures.


Jensen, G. F., & Akers, R. L. (2009). Social Learning Theory and the Explanation of Crime: A

Guide for the New Century. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Taylor, R. W., Fritsch, E. J., & Liederbach, J. (2015). Digital crime and digital terrorism (3rd

Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Wishart, H. (2013). Criminal Culpability, Criminal Attempts and the Erosion of the Choice

Theory. Journal of Criminal Law, 77(1), 78-90. doi:10.1350/jcla.2013.77.1.820