Computer crime, also referred to as cybercrime, is any type of criminal offence carried out using a computer as well as a computer network. Chowdhury (190) defines computer crime as the type of crime that is usually carried out against a person or groups of persons with an illegal motive to deliberately damage their reputation, cause bodily or psychological harm, or financial losses using contemporary telecommunication networks. This paper outlines the key categories and forms of cyber crime, computer crime category that poses the greatest risk and the role and responses of government and court systems in combating this type of crime.
As computer and network related crimes continue becoming more prevalent, there is an intensifying need particularly among the law enforcement personnel to understand how they significantly vary. This is important as it will ensure that they gain insight pertaining to various categories of crime for investigative purpose. The first category of computer crime occurs when the computer becomes the central target for criminal activities. This category of computer crime is usually carried out by a group of offenders and it usually requires significant expertise in computer technology on the side of the perpetrators (Choi 11). The computer is targeted for the purpose accomplishing offenses that include intellectual property thievery, illegal access of marketing data of blackmail using data obtained from computerized files. The crime could further entail damage of intellectual property, human resources, pricing as well as marketing data or destruction of computer systems with the intention of impeding a business (Chowdhury 192).
The second category of computer crime can occur when the computer is used as the tool for perpetuating crime. This category of crime usually occurs when an individual, rather than the computer system or network becomes the central target for cyber crime. The computer is thus used to perpetuate the intended criminal offense (Hoffstadt 34). In this case, the offender can introduce new programming instructions intended to manipulate the system’s analytical process thereby enhancing illegal activities. Examples of crimes that can occur under this category include deceitful exploitation of Automated Teller Machines, fraudulent credit card transfers and theft of money through transfer accounts (Choi 16).
The third computer crime category can occur when the computer is subsidiary to other crimes. This means that the computer is not the primary target for a criminal offense but is often linked to the criminal act. As such, the criminal activity can still occur in absence of computer network but its presence only enhances speed, allows generation of greater information content and implicates efforts to trace the perpetrators. Examples of crimes that can occur under this category include destruction or illegal modification of incriminating data, such as data linked to drug trafficking and money laundering activities (Chowdhury 194).
The fourth category of computer crime occurs when there are crimes linked with widespread existence of computers. This category of crime occurs as a result of the mere presence and rapid growth of computers that allow for development of relatively traditional crimes. On this note, constant technological advancement enhances development of new aspects of crime that are increasingly aimed towards new targets. Examples of crimes that occur under this category include Software counterfeiting, copyright infringement, counterfeit equipment, technological equipment thievery and black market trade of computer equipments (Hoffstadt 37).
Computer crime can also take different forms that are likely to pose significant threat to the national security and financial welfare. Spam is a common form of digital crime that entails unlawful dispensation of large amounts of emails for commercial reasons. Although anti-spam laws were only implemented in the recent past, there has been significant limitation on the unsolicited digital communication (Choi 22). Fraud is another form of digital crime, and it describes dishonest dispensation of misrepresented facts with aim of influencing another person to undertake an action that might cause tremendous losses. In this context, fraud allows cyber criminals to alter exiting data through illegitimate means to distribute classified information, which in return promote crimes that include identity theft, illegal money transfer and extortion. Cyber terrorism is another form of digital crime and it describes an act of terrorism that is usually committed through cyber space (Hoffstadt 41). Cyber terrorists employ the internet platform to coerce the government or other institutions to take actions that will advance their objectives. They also use the cyber space to spread propaganda that can eventually lead to terror attacks. Cyber warfare is another common form of digital crime and it describes criminal attacks on a nation’s information systems with the aim of causing disruptions. International organizations such as terrorists, hackers and transnational criminal groups may for example damage a country’s computer systems with the aim of denying access or damage important data, which may in return affect its ability to advance activities related to its national security (Choi 28).
Cyber warfare, which occurs when the computer becomes the target of a criminal offense, is the main computer crime category presenting the greatest threat in the present time. The US government has for example experienced various instances of illegitimate intrusions through cyber space intended to cause significant harm of the government agency and business organizations’ information systems (Chowdhury 199). In 2012, the US experienced constant intrusions resulting from hacking of the White House computer systems. Threats linked to cyber warfare include infringement of the national security as offenders can easily and rapidly undertake attacks without incurring costs or raising suspicion. Rival countries in the present times are using cyber warfare as an appropriate alternative to conventional weapons to conduct tremendous attacks against the US without leaving any trace or standing at the risk of being caught (Hoffstadt 47).
With the risk associated with computer crime escalating on a day-to-day basis, the US government, court systems as well as the law enforcement agencies have assumed various roles and responses intended to address this issue. According to Choi (32), the government, court systems and law enforcements agencies have a central role in preventing computer attacks before they take place as well as respond to the attacks when they occur. Prevention of possible computer crimes may occur through conducting threat assessments as well as implementing effective countermeasures that would interrupt activities of computer criminals. The institutions also alert members of the public about possible computer attacks, which allows them to shield themselves from these attacks (Chowdhury 200). The institutions further respond to computer crimes by ensuring that the law enforcement personnel obtains advanced expertise in computer technology to be able to adequately protect the wider society. In addition to these roles, the government and law enforcement agencies provide financial support to facilitate trainings, purchase of equipments and materials needed to address the problem (Hoffstadt 51).
In addition to the roles and responses undertaken by various institutions to curb computer crime, the law enforcement agencies should seek to establish a common front against cyber space attackers. As such, the law enforcement agencies should devise procedures that would interconnect computer systems in different departments and business entities. This is because attacks against large systems can easily be detected, thereby making possible computer attacks to significantly reduce (Choi 40).
Computer crime is a rapidly growing threat to national security and financial welfare and hence there is need to significantly understand how different forms and categories of this crime vary. Categories of computer crime can occur when the computer becomes the target for attacks, is used as the tool for attacks, becomes a subsidiary to other crimes or crime result from high prevalence of computers. Forms of computer crime include spam, fraud, cyber terrorism and cyber warfare. The government, law enforcement agencies and court systems have a role in preventing as well as counteracting crime before as well as when it occurs.
Choi, Kyung-Shick. Risk Factors in Computer-Crime Victimization. London: LFB Scholarly, 2010.
Chowdhury, Kamal. “Nature of Cyber Crime and its Impacts on Young People: A Case from Bangladesh,” Asian Social Science 8.15(2012):190-213.
Hoffstadt, Yang. “Countering the Cyber-Crime Threat,” American Criminal Law Review 43.2(2006):31-77.