Computer crime issues have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement through warez, child pornography, and child grooming. There are also problems of privacy when confidential information is lost or intercepted, lawfully or otherwise.
Computer crime encompass 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 common example is when a person starts to steal information from sites, or cause damage to, a computer or computer network. This can be entirely virtual in that the information only exists in digital form, and the damage, while real, has no physical consequence other than the machine ceases to function. In some legal systems, intangible property cannot be stolen and the damage must be visible, e.g. as resulting from a blow from a hammer. Where human-centric terminology is used for crimes relying on natural language skills and innate gullibility, definitions have to be modified to ensure that fraudulent behavior remains criminal no matter how it is committed.
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:
1. 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;
2. altering, destroying, suppressing, or stealing output, usually to conceal unauthorized transactions: this is difficult to detect;
3. altering or deleting stored data; or
4. altering or misusing existing system tools or software packages, or altering or writing code for fraudulent purposes. This requires real programming skills and is not common.
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.
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. Furthermore, traditional drug recipes were carefully kept secrets. But with modern computer technology, this information is now being made available to anyone with computer access.
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 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. At worst, cyberterrorists may use the Internet or computer resources to carry out an actual attack. As well there are also hacking activities directed towards individuals, families, organised by groups within networks, tending to cause fear among people, demonstrate power, collecting information relevant for ruining peoples' lives, robberies, blackmailing etc.
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.
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 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.