Computer crime, or cybercrime, refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network, where the computers may or may not have played an instrumental part in the commission of a crime. Netcrime refers, more precisely, to criminal exploitation of the Internet. Issues surrounding this type of crime have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement, child pornography, and child grooming. There are also problems of privacy when confidential information is lost or intercepted, lawfully or otherwise.
On the global level, both governments and non-state actors continue to grow in importance, with the ability to engage in such activities as espionage, financial theft, and other cross-border crimes sometimes referred to as cyber warfare. The international legal system is attempting to hold actors accountable for their actions, with the International Criminal Court among the few addressing this threat.
Computer crime encompasses a broad range of potentially illegal activities. Generally, however, it may be divided into one of two types of categories: (1) crimes that target computer networks or devices directly; (2) crimes facilitated by computer networks or devices, the primary target of which is independent of the computer network or device.
Examples of crimes that primarily target computer networks or devices would include:
Examples of crimes that merely use computer networks or devices would include:
A computer can be a source of evidence. Even though the computer is not directly used for criminal purposes, it is an excellent device for record keeping, particularly given the power to encrypt the data. If this evidence can be obtained and decrypted, it can be of great value to criminal investigators.
Spam, or the unsolicited sending of bulk email for commercial purposes, is unlawful to varying degrees. As applied to email, specific anti-spam laws are relatively new, however limits on unsolicited electronic communications have existed in some forms for some time.
Computer fraud is any dishonest misrepresentation of fact intended to let another to do or refrain from doing something which causes loss. In this context, the fraud will result in obtaining a benefit by:
- Altering computer input in an unauthorized way. This requires little technical expertise and is not an uncommon form of theft by employees altering the data before entry or entering false data, or by entering unauthorized instructions or using unauthorized processes;
- Altering, destroying, suppressing, or stealing output, usually to conceal unauthorized transactions: this is difficult to detect;
- Altering or deleting stored data;
- Altering or misusing existing system tools or software packages, or altering or writing code for fraudulent purposes.
A variety of Internet scams target consumers direct.
Obscene or offensive content
The content of websites and other electronic communications may be distasteful, obscene or offensive for a variety of reasons. In some instances these communications may be illegal.
ManyTemplate:Quantify jurisdictions place limits on certain speech and ban racist, blasphemous, politically subversive, libelous or slanderous, seditious, or inflammatory material that tends to incite hate crimes.
The extent to which these communications are unlawful varies greatly between countries, and even within nations. It is a sensitive area in which the courts can become involved in arbitrating between groups with entrenched beliefs.
Whereas content may be offensive in a non-specific way, harassment directs obscenities and derogatory comments at specific individuals focusing for example on gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation. This often occurs in chat rooms, through newsgroups, and by sending hate e-mail to interested parties (see cyber bullying, cyber stalking, harassment by computer, hate crime, Online predator, and stalking). Any comment that may be found derogatory or offensive is considered harassment.
Drug traffickers are increasingly taking advantage of the Internet to sell their illegal substances through encrypted e-mail and other Internet Technology. Some drug traffickers arrange deals at internet cafes, use courier Web sites to track illegal packages of pills, and swap recipes for amphetamines in restricted-access chat rooms.
The rise in Internet drug trades could also be attributed to the lack of face-to-face communication. These virtual exchanges allow more intimidated individuals to more comfortably purchase illegal drugs. The sketchy effects that are often associated with drug trades are severely minimized and the filtering process that comes with physical interaction fades away.
Government officials and Information Technology security specialists have documented a significant increase in Internet problems and server scans since early 2001. But there is a growing concern among federal officials[who?] that such intrusions are part of an organized effort by cyberterrorists, foreign intelligence services, or other groups to map potential security holes in critical systems. A cyberterrorist is someone who intimidates or coerces a government or organization to advance his or her political or social objectives by launching computer-based attack against computers, network, and the information stored on them.
Cyberterrorism in general, can be defined as an act of terrorism committed through the use of cyberspace or computer resources (Parker 1983). As such, a simple propaganda in the Internet, that there will be bomb attacks during the holidays can be considered cyberterrorism. As well there are also hacking activities directed towards individuals, families, organized by groups within networks, tending to cause fear among people, demonstrate power, collecting information relevant for ruining peoples' lives, robberies, blackmailing etc.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) notes that cyberspace has emerged as a national-level concern through several recent events of geo-strategic significance. Among those are included the attack on Estonia's infrastructure in 2007, allegedly by Russian hackers. "In August 2008, Russia again allegedly conducted cyber attacks, this time in a coordinated and synchronized kinetic and non-kinetic campaign against the country of Georgia. Fearing that such attacks may become the norm in future warfare among nation-states, the concept of cyberspace operations impacts and will be adapted by warfighting military commanders in the future.
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- The Newscorp satellite pay to view encrypted SKY-TV service was hacked several times between 1995 and 1998 during an on-going technological arms race between a pan-European hacking group and Newscorp. The original motivation of the hackers was to watch Star Trek re-runs in Germany; which was something which Newscorp did not have the copyright to allow.
- The Yahoo! website was attacked at 10:30 PST on Monday, 7 February 2000. The attack, started by MafiaBoy, lasted for three hours. Yahoo was pinged at the rate of one gigabyte/second.
- On 3 August 2000, Canadian federal prosecutors charged MafiaBoy with 54 counts of illegal access to computers, plus a total of ten counts of mischief to data for his attacks on Amazon.com, eBay, Dell Computer, Outlaw.net, and Yahoo. MafiaBoy had also attacked other websites, but prosecutors decided that a total of 66 counts was enough. MafiaBoy pleaded not guilty.
- About fifty computers at Stanford University, and also computers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, were amongst the zombie computers sending pings in DDoS attacks.
- On 2 March 2010, Spanish investigators busted 3 in infection of over 13 million computers around the world. The "botnet" of infected computers included PCs inside more than half of the Fortune 1000 companies and more than 40 major banks, according to investigators.
- In 26 March 1999, the Melissa worm infected a document on a victim's computer, then automatically sent that document and copy of the virus via e-mail to other people.
- Russian Business Network (RBN) was registered as an internet site in 2006. Initially, much of its activity was legitimate. But apparently the founders soon discovered that it was more profitable to host illegitimate activities and started hiring its services to criminals. The RBN has been described by VeriSign as "the baddest of the bad". It offers web hosting services and internet access to all kinds of criminal and objectionable activities, with a individual activities earning up to $150 million in one year. It specialized in and in some cases monopolized personal identity theft for resale. It is the originator of MPack and an alleged operator of the Storm botnet.
- Computer trespass
- Cyber bullying
- Cyber defamation law
- Cyber terrorism
- Economic and Industrial Espionage
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- High Technology Crime Investigation Association
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Internet homicide
- Internet stalking
- Internet suicide
- Internet War
- Legal aspects of computing
- List of convicted computer criminals
- Metasploit Project
- Online predator
- Organized crime
- Penetration test
- Personal jurisdiction over international defendants in the United States
- Police National E-Crime Unit
- United States Secret Service
- White collar crime
- Moore, R. (2005) "Cybercrime: Investigating High-Technology Computer Crime," Cleveland, Mississippi: Anderson Publishing.
- Mann and Sutton 1998: >>Netcrime: More change in the Organization of Thieving. British Journal of Criminology; 38: 201-229. Oxfordjournals.org
- Ophardt, Jonathan A. "Cyber warfare and the crime of aggression: the need for individual accountability on tomorrow's battlefield" Duke Law and Technology Review, February 23, 2010
- See, e.g., Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003, CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
- "War is War? The utility of cyberspace operations in the contemporary operational environment" U.S. Army War College, February 2010
- Mann, D. and Sutton, M. (1998) >>Netcrime: More Change in the Organization of Thieving. British Journal of Criminology. 38:PP. 201-229 Oxfordjournals.org
- Balkin, J., Grimmelmann, J., Katz, E., Kozlovski, N., Wagman, S. & Zarsky, T. (2006) (eds) Cybercrime: Digital Cops in a Networked Environment, New York University Press, New York.
- Brenner, S. (2007) Law in an Era of Smart Technology, Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Csonka P. (2000) Internet Crime; the Draft council of Europe convention on cyber-crime: A response to the challenge of crime in the age of the internet? Computer Law & Security Report Vol.16 no.5.
- Easttom C. (2010) Computer Crime Investigation and the Law
- Fafinski, S. (2009) Computer Misuse: Response, regulation and the law Cullompton: Willan
- Grabosky, P. (2006) Electronic Crime, New Jersey: Prentice Hall
- McQuade, S. (2006) Understanding and Managing Cybercrime, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- McQuade, S. (ed) (2009) The Encyclopedia of Cybercrime, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Parker D (1983) Fighting Computer Crime, U.S.: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
- Pattavina, A. (ed) Information Technology and the Criminal Justice System, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Paul Taylor. Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime (November 3, 1999 ed.). Routledge; 1 edition. pp. 200. ISBN 0415180724.
- Robertson, J. (2010, March 2). Authorities bust 3 in infection of 13m computers. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from Boston News: Boston.com
- Walden, I. (2007) Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Wall, D.S. (2007) Cybercrimes: The transformation of crime in the information age, Cambridge: Polity.
- Williams, M. (2006) Virtually Criminal: Crime, Deviance and Regulation Online, Routledge, London.
- Yar, M. (2006) Cybercrime and Society, London: Sage.
- High Technology Crime Investigation Association
- A Guide to Computer Crime from legal.practitioner.com
- Computer Crime Research Center
- CyberCrime Asia Research Center - Information about computer crime, Internet fraud and CyberTerrorism in Asia
- Cyber Crime Portal India - Cyber Crime Portal in India
- Cybercrime.gov from the United States Department of Justice
- National Institute of Justice Electronic Crime Program from the United States Department of Justice
- FBI Cyber Investigations home page
- US Secret Service Computer Fraud
- Australian High Tech Crime Centre
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