The term “cyber crime” refers to crimes that are committed using computers and the internet. Also referred to as computer-oriented crime, it generally involves a computer and a network. Cyber crimes can also be committed using other devices, such as tablets and cell phones. Under such definitions, the computer or device could either be used in the commission of the crime, or it may be the target.
Cyber crimes are punishable offenses. Such offenses can include many different specific actions, but generally involve the theft of personal information, bank account information, and online assets. As technology advances and expands at such a rapid pace, the number of cyber crimes and cyber criminals have risen to become a daily reality.
Additionally, cyber crime can be difficult to detect because of rapid technological advancements. It can be difficult for the proper authorities to stay on top of the many different schemes and crimes that are in circulation. Because of this, no one is immune from being a victim of cyber crimes. Targets of cyber crimes most commonly include but are not limited to:
- Governments; and
- Other entities, such as hospitals.
What Are some Examples of Cyber Crime?
Cyber crimes may be very simple, such as disrupting normal internet access or very complex, such as infiltrating a government. They may be criminal transactions, as well as instructions or breaches of privacy. Some of the most common examples of the various different cyber crimes include:
- Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying refers to sending or posting hateful and/or hurtful messages or images about another person. It is a crime prevalent among younger generations, and has only been designated a crime relatively recently; nonetheless, it is still a valid and legitimate crime. Teen and college aged students are often the most common victims of cyberbullying by way of social media. However, it is not a crime exclusive to younger generations. Some jurisdictions impose penalties for repeat offenders;
- Cyberterrorism: Cyberterrorism is used to create fear and panic, and often to incite violence. It is much the same as terrorism, but in a virtual space. Cyberterrorism commonly puts people’s lives in danger. An example of this would be if a cyberterrorist alters the medical records of patients at a hospital. Such an act could obviously have devastating and deadly consequences;
- Distribution of Child Pornography: It is an unfortunate fact that it is difficult to track down the cyber criminal source of child pornography. This is because of the criminal’s ability to remain largely anonymous on the internet. It is imperative to remember that American courts have determined that the very existence of the child pornography infers that other crimes and/or violations occurred in order to create the exploitative content;
- Identity Theft: Identity theft May be the most common type of cyber crime. It can occur when someone steals another person’s personal information, generally for their own financial gain. Identity theft is most commonly achieved through a phishing scheme in order to illegally gain access to unsuspecting victims’ bank accounts, or credit cards;
- Money Laundering: Criminals electronically move around money obtained through criminal activity. The money is moved to different businesses and bank accounts, often legitimate. However, the criminal’s goal is to hide the fact that the money was obtained illegally; and
- Ransomware: Ransomware is malicious software, installed by hackers. It typically targets individuals, although larger groups such as hospitals and local governments are not immune. Ransomware prevents users from accessing sensitive records and information until a ransom, or payoff, is made to the cyber criminal.
How Can I Protect Myself from Cyber Crime?
It is important to note that there are no foolproof ways to protect yourself from cyber crime. As previously mentioned, cyber crimes can be simple or sophisticated and evolve as quickly as technology. However, there are many steps that individuals, businesses, and governments may take in order to reduce the likelihood of being a cyber crime target
Consumers can begin to protect themselves by reporting any suspicious websites, web users, or activity. It is important for anyone accessing the internet to install up-to-date and adequate anti-virus software on their computers and other devices. Additionally, do not download any files, attachments, or other content from any unknown sources.
Monitor children while they are using technology, especially if that involves using the internet. There are many parental control programs that can be downloaded or implemented in order to restrict children’s computer activity. Teach them to never share any personal information online, such as social security or bank account numbers. Adults should understand when it is safe for them to do so, and when it is not. A cyber lawyer or cyber attorney can help provide advice and guidance for those looking to further protect themselves from cyber crimes. Such an attorney would be better aware of the updated and ever-changing laws regarding cyber crime.
What Are Some Cyber Crime Punishments?
State laws regarding cyber crime and its punishments vary. Additionally, cyber crimes may be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends on the severity of the crime, the specifics of each circumstance, and of course the state’s laws. Some common cyber crime punishments include monetary fines, jail time, and probation. The amount of fees, as well as the length of jail time and/or probation will be determined by whether the crime is considered to be a misdemeanor or a felony.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) is commonly involved with cyber crime investigation and prosecution. This is generally because internet crimes typically involve more than one state, which makes the crime a federal matter. Additionally, the FBI is the lead investigation group against terrorism. As such, if the cyber attack is related to terrorism, the FBI is involved in the case. Federal penalties for cyber crime are usually more severe than state penalties.
Are there any Defenses to Cyber Crimes?
A cyber crime lawyer can review the specifics of the case to determine whether there are any defenses available to the person being accused of cyber crime. Potential defenses to cyber crimes could include:
- Actual Authorization: The defendant may have actually been granted permission, by the authorizing party, to access the data that was potentially corrupted, damaged, and/or hacked;
- Duress or Coercion: The defendant may be able to prove that they were tricked into committing the cyber crime, or were threatened into cooperating; and/or
- Knowledge: Knowledge could prove to be a key component in prosecuting a defendant for cyber crimes. Depending on the crime, as well as the defendant’s involvement, it is possible that the defendant did not actually have any knowledge that they were committing or participating in an online criminal activity.
When Should I Speak with a Cyber Crime Attorney?
If you are the victim of a cyber crime, it may be necessary to report any criminal activities to local authorities. Further, if the violation is work-related, you should inform your work supervisor and/or IT division so they can investigate the matter. Whether you are the victim of a cyber crime, or are being accused of committing a cyber crime, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal lawyer.
An experienced cyber crime lawyer can inform you of your rights and options, as well as represent you in court as needed. The attorney can assist victims in the process of reporting the crime, and provide potential defenses to a person facing cyber crime accusations.