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Illegal internet content


Child abuse images and pornography

The proliferation of ICT has facilitated the means to easily gain access to, store, trade in, or possess child pornography in the form of images or text. The networks that are developed may operate on a social or a commercial basis. Various types of images may be available, including images of children, actors made to appear as children, digitally created images of children and pictures of children manipulated ('morphed') to appear in a pornographic context. There is evidence of considerable growth in the number of people who are involved in the exchange of images compared with those involved in the original abuse.

Reports and papers

Possibilities for forgery, plagiarism, and other offences against intellectual property have been significantly enhanced by the advent of digital technology. Piracy has become a growth industry, so much so, that it may strain the capacity of governments to control it. Here again, a fundamental policy question is whether state enforcement is preferable to self-help on the part of the individual. Are private precautions and private remedies sufficient in most cases?

Private legal solutions are likely to be more effective within jurisdictions than across them. One would not expect Microsoft, for example, to receive a great deal of comfort from the legal process of the People's Republic of China. Organisations with access to considerable resources, may, however, pursue telecommunications offenders across the globe. A recent example involves the protracted litigation being taken by the Church of Scientology in respect of alleged copyright infringements on the Internet. In a series of actions taken in various jurisdictions in the United States as well as in the Netherlands, the church has sought interim orders restraining the publication of materials on the Internet which are said to infringe its copyright. Such remedies do not come cheaply, however, and one of the problems of private remedies is that they are only available to those who are able to afford them.

Source: Grabosky P 1998. Crime and technology in the global village, paper presented at the Internet crime conference, 16-17 Feb 1998


Malware refers to malicious software. Software is potentially malicious if it can be used to harm either the computer on which it is hosted or another computer. Software may also be considered malicious if it is designed to install itself on a computer without the permission of the owner of that computer, particularly if it does so in a way that may compromise the security of the computer. Malicious may be loosely interpreted. A piece of software may be considered malicious even though it may have been launched with the intention of providing an arguable benefit. For example, the Nachi worm was intended to install updates from Microsoft's website. A wider term is unwanted software which includes spyware and adware.

Source: Australian Institute of Criminology 2006. Malware : viruses, worms, Trojan horses

Economics of malware : security decisions, incentives and externalities
Michel JG van Eeten and Johannes M Bauer. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2008

Internet regulation

Content of every conceivable variety may be found in cyberspace. Erotica, racist propaganda, information relating to the manufacture of drugs and explosives, and instructions on how to commit suicide, now lie at one's fingertips. How to protect children and those who are easily offended, while allowing the emerging medium of the internet to flourish, has become a challenge to most governments, and to many parents, in the developed world.

It is an understandable reaction to any perceived social evil to attempt to legislate it away. Early efforts to regulate internet content are illustrative. In some instances, these efforts have been grounded jointly in cynicism and realpolitik. Attempts to prohibit anonymous online communications may discourage legitimate expression such as that involving whistleblowers or human rights advocates residing with the jurisdiction of repressive regimes. Although the rush to regulate, or to criminalize, may have political resonance, it may have downside consequences.

The risk, or indeed, the fact, that freedom of speech will be abused by some, is insufficient justification for 'pulling the plug' on telecommunications. One must always bear in mind that excessive constraints on freedom of expression and communication may inhibit the realization of competitive advantage.

Source: Grabosky P 1998. Crime and technology in the global village, paper presented at the Internet crime conference, 16-17 Feb 1998. (PDF 21kB)

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