Cybercrimes are generally defined as any type of illegal activity that makes use of the Internet, a private or public network, or an in-house computer system. While many forms of cybercrime revolve around the appropriation of proprietary information for unauthorized use, other examples are focused more on an invasion of privacy. As a growing problem around the world, many countries are beginning to implement laws and other regulatory mechanisms in an attempt to minimize the incidence of cybercrime.
Sometimes referred to as electronic crime, one of the most prolific examples involves utilizing a computer connection and specially developed software in order to steal identities, credit card numbers, or other data that the criminal can use to his or her advantage. Using illegally obtained data, the criminal can open accounts, charge a wide range of goods and services, and then abandon the accounts. This leaves the victim in the position of having to deal with huge debts that he or she did not generate.
Blackmail is a long-established illegal act that has been given a new twist in the modern age. The blackmailer may threaten to release embarrassing or other harmful information via the Internet or a private network if the victim does not comply with the demands of the criminal. A cybercrime of this type may go as far as having the victim transfer funds to an untraceable bank account using some type of online payment program, thus making full use of modern technology to commit the crime.
Cybercrime can also involve illegal access to company information. Just as with individuals, criminals can steal financial information and make purchases using the data. The criminal may also withdraw funds from company reserves, transferring the stolen funds through a variety of accounts and making it virtually impossible to locate the stolen assets. In other cases, it is not money or credit information the criminal seeks; obtaining proprietary client information and selling it to competitors is another example of this type of high tech criminal activity.
In many countries around the world, nations have passed cybercrime law packages that make the issuance of spam a criminal act. Spam is loosely defined as unsolicited emails that are simultaneously sent to thousands or even millions of email accounts. Some nations have enacted specific conditions that must apply in order for the spam to not be considered a cybercrime, such as providing a means for the recipient to opt out of receiving further email solicitations from the sender. As the problem grows, more politicians promote the idea of some sort of national or international cybercrime act that would specifically address the use of spam and either limit or eliminate the practice altogether.
Obtaining authoritative cybercrime statistics is not as easy as it would seem. As with many criminal acts, some incidents of electronic crime go unreported. This makes it hard to compile any type of cybercrime report that tells the whole story for a given period of time. However, many law enforcement agencies around the world cooperate in an effort to provide as complete a picture as possible. In the United States, FBI cybercrime documentation seeks to identify any and all examples of electronic crime, including actions that may involve terrorist activity as well as crimes such as fraud, identity theft, or embezzlement.