Crime Overview Computer Crime

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Computer crime – which is also variously referred to as cyber-crime, e-crime, high-tech crime, and electronic crime – can include many different types of offenses. If a computer or a network is the source, target, tool or place of the crime, it is considered a type of computer crime. Other crimes that can be facilitated by a computer crime are fraud, theft, blackmail, forgery and embezzlement.

Computer crimes are covered by both federal and state laws. Because of the nature of technology, including the use of the Internet, computer crimes often cross state lines and therefore involve federal laws and federal prosecution. They can be classified as two separate categories of crimes; one in which the target is the network or computer, and one in which crimes are executed or expedited by a computer.

Some examples of computer crime are the interception of data from a computer network or hacking. The word "hacking" originally involved illegal computer trespassing, although the meaning now has often been generalized and is not specifically linked to computer crimes. A hacker or unauthorized person would gain access to a computer network for various reasons, such as the disruption of service or the gaining of proprietary or personal information from the network. The transmission of a computer virus is a kind of computer crime that is intended to disrupt service, since a virus can cause damage to computer systems, create a loss of information, and result in financial losses.

There are two kinds of hackers, "white hat" hackers and "black hat" hackers. White hat hackers are hired by businesses to test internal computer systems in order to determine its integrity and whether or not there are vulnerable points of entry for outsiders. White hat hackers therefore use their powers for good, and can also create new and useful software. Black hat hackers, who work independently, are intent upon destruction, and may engage in data interception, data modification, data theft, network interference, network sabotage, unauthorized access, virus dissemination, aiding and abetting, computer-related forgery, and computer-related fraud.

Other types of computer crime include harassment, such as cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking. Cyber-stalking is intimidation through the use of electronic means, such as email, online forums, electronic bulletin boards, or social networking communities such as MySpace or Facebook. While the crime has a different manifestation than traditional stalking, the psychological implications can be the same for the stalking victim. Defamation of an individual through the use of electronic communication can also be a computer crime, as can identity theft.

It is also considered computer crime when the computer is used as a tool that helps criminal activities, such as reproducing and distributing material that is copyrighted, storing records that indicate fraud, and producing identification that is untruthful. There are crimes in which the computer itself is the target, and can be damaged or its system altered. In some instances of computer crime, these targeted computers may then be used as a tool to start attacking other computers and networks. The theft of the physical computer or hardware itself can also be seen as a type of computer crime, as this may result in important and valuable information getting into the wrong hands.

Other crimes, such as child pornography or drug trafficking or cyber-terrorism, are all types of computer crimes. Because of the anonymity of computer users, many people have used the Internet and modern technology to help execute their crimes more effectively than traditional methods. For example, child pornography has grown significantly because of the international and anonymous nature of the Internet. Computer crimes within a small business are many times committed by an employee of the business because of the type of access they have to the computers and networks, and their knowledge of where to find the specific information they are looking for. The type of damage these sorts of crimes inflict is usually information based – theft of a mailing list or the alteration of records, for example – whereas computer crimes committed by an outsider tend to be more malicious or mercenary.

The losses incurred through computer crimes are difficult, if not impossible, to calculate in most instances. Moreover, many computer crimes go undetected undetected by their victims and therefore are frequently not reported. Many businesses whose computer networks have been infiltrated decide not to report it because they are afraid of negative publicity, which may make them lose business or their reputation. For these and other reasons, reliable statistics on computer crime are hard to come by.

Due to the usage of the Internet for e-commerce, and the total dependence on technology of many businesses, computer crime is predicted to advance. As new technologies take hold, criminal elements will infiltrate the systems for their benefit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) has a computer crime squad that helps to protect the public from computer crimes. Because the Internet is not managed or policed by one organization, but by many people from all over the world, computer crimes can cross international borders. Therefore, effective prevention or prosecution requires the coordination of many law enforcement agencies.