K-State Criminologist Explores Cybercrime Prevention

The most recent FBI cybercrime annual report shows victims lost $10.3 billion from internet scams in 2022, with phishing being the top-reported crime. A Kansas State University criminologist’s new book forges a path for changing these statistics.

Against Cybercrime: Toward a Realist Criminology of Computer Crime,” a new book from Routledge by Kevin Steinmetz, Kansas State University professor of criminology in the College of Arts and Sciences, looks to address the root causes of cybercrimes and chart a course for how computer crimes are studied.

Steinmetz begins “Against Cybercrime” by exploring the current state of online crime control and updating the perspective of realist criminology, which has focused primarily on street crime, to include cybercrimes. One of his goals is to find ways to intervene in these types of crimes without eroding privacy and other civil liberties or otherwise reducing the well-being of everyday folks.

“If we want to make real gains in reducing crime and protecting victims, then we need to resist the siren’s song that we can engineer our way out of the situation,” Steinmetz said. “We need to think more deeply about the relationship between computers and crime to solve the battery of contemporary crime problems we face.”

According to Steinmetz, researchers and public officials tend to look to technology to stop internet crimes; for instance, in recent years, governments have increasingly turned to methods like spyware, internet traffic monitoring and other potentially intrusive means to detect criminal activity and similar threats. Steinmetz wrote the book to help readers get a broader view of ways to reduce crime through social and institutional means rather than software or surveillance.

“Relying too extensively on technology to solve problems of crime and victimization risks pushing us deeper into a surveillance state, where every action is monitored and, to some extent, controlled by government organizations, online platforms and various corporations,” Steinmetz said. “Instead, we need to also consider how we can implement broader systemic changes and social policies to reduce criminal opportunities as well as protect and support victims.”

Steinmetz was named the Critical Criminologist of the Year in 2022 by the American Society of Criminology, Division of Critical Criminology & Social Justice executive board. He is currently serving as the chair of the American Society of Criminology’s Division of Cybercrime.

“Against Cybercrimes” will be published on Sept. 1 and available through book retailers.