Computer crime refers to criminal activity involving a computer. The computer may be used in the commission of a crime or it may be the target. Net-crime refers to criminal use of the Internet. Cyber-crimes are essentially a combination of these two elements and can be best defined as “Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly using modern telecommunication networks.
In its most simple form, cyber-crime can be defined as any illegal activity thatuses a computer as its primary means of function. The U.S. Department of Justice broadens this definition to include any illegal activity that uses a computer for the storage of evidence. The term ‘cyber-crime’ can refer to offenses including criminal activity against data, infringement of content and copyright, fraud, unauthorized access, child pornography and cyber-stalking.
The United Nations Manual on the Prevention and Control of Computer Related Crime includes fraud, forgery and unauthorized access in its definition of cyber-crime. Cyber-crime in effect covers a wide range of attacks on individuals and organisations alike. These crimes may include anything from an individual’s emotional or financial state to a nation’s security. There are two main categories that define the make up of cyber-crimes. Firstly those that target computer networks or devices such as viruses, malware, or denial of service attacks.
In order to highlight the scale of cyber-crime globally, the Norton Cyber-crime Report 2011 revealed 431 million adults in 24 countries had been victims’ of cyber-crime in that year. Computer based crime is escalating at an alarming rate. In the report Norton calculated the financial cost of global cyber-crime at $388 billion. This is more than the combined international market for marijuana, heroin and cocaine, estimated at $288 billion. Assuming its current growth rate continues, cyber-crime will soon surpass the entire global drug trafficking market that is estimated to be worth $411 billion annually.
Cyber-crimes have expanded to include activities that cross international borders and can now be considered a global epidemic. The international legal system ensures cyber criminals are held accountable through the International Criminal Court. Law enforcement agencies are faced with unique challenges and the anonymity of the Internet only complicates the issues. There are problems with gathering evidence, cross-jurisdictional issues and miscommunication related to reporting. Orewa Real Estate Agents