Cyber Ethics: A Global Conversation
According to Gadgets and Gizmos, 73 percent of Americans have been victims of cyber crime. Cyber crime isn’t limited to the United States. Because the Internet is global, so is cyber crime. Due to the interconnectedness of our societies and the diversity of Internet users (ages, disciplines, education, political cultures, etc.), creating cyber ethics guidelines becomes an ongoing, global conversation.
Cyber ethics is not only the code of conducts for computer professionals, but also principles that should be followed by all Internet users.
Recommending ethical principles that are acceptable to such a wide range of users is a challenge. For example, the top spam-producing countries according to Sophos are the United States (11.43%), India (8.02%), Republic of Korea (7.94%), Russian Federation (7.52%), and Brazil (5.82%).
Ethical principles must be based on the existing cultures, rules, practices and judicial system of each society. From the legal point of view, the global nature of computer crime could involve several countries in one crime. This makes prosecution very difficult and judicial systems may not be the answer to a more secure Internet. Computer ethics is part of most accredited computer programs in the United States. Unfortunately, many computer crimes are committed by computer professionals who are somewhat, if not fully, aware of the computer ethics. This does not lessen the importance of ethics education; however, experience shows that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
According to Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), a 2008 study stated that students who attended a compulsory course with topics in ethics and professionalism appeared highly receptive, pointing toward positive outcomes. However, about 20 percent of those who had learned and claimed to understand computer ethics after attending a course planned to ignore the ethical principles learned when conducting their work.
To combat these threats, many corporations have implemented mandatory ethics training for all employees, and cyber ethics is incorporated as part of the corporate policies. There have been many attempts from various organizations and government agencies to educate the public on ethical conduct.
Two years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a campaign to educate Americans on responsible, safe and secure use of the Internet: “Stop.Think.Connect.” The campaign is supported by many global and national organizations. Microsoft has also created a list of “do’s and don’ts,” suggestions for a safer and more enjoyable Internet experience.
Here are a few ethical actions that should be followed by all the Internet users:
Protect your computers and all your on-line devices with safeguards such as up to date anti-virus software, firewall and access controls.
Know that when on the Internet, you are not as anonymous as you may want to be. Although you may be using your own, private computer or Internet device, your online actions could be traced by most web applications. Remember that many applications are recording what you do on the Internet, and the recordings could be retrieved at any time.
Discuss Internet ethics with your kids, family, friends and co-workers. You could find a simple and vastly followed ethical guideline presented by The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. This list has been translated into more than ten languages and is a good source of reference to follow. Also, when in doubt, The Computer Ethics Institute (CEI) provides advice to individuals, organizations and government concerning ethical responsibilities and is helpful in clarifying any ambiguity when confronting any unfamiliar computer ethical problems.
Dr. Tahereh Daneshi is a professor of Information Systems Management at DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. She has more than twenty years of teaching experience in higher education and has authored and co-authored a dozen technical publications. Daneshi holds a doctorate in mathematics from Texas Christian University, a master’s degree in mathematics from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in computer science from Midwestern State University.