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Computer crime (also called cybercrime, e-crime, hi-tech crime and electronic crime) is "[a]ny form of illegal act involving electronic information and computer equipment."[1]


These categories are not exclusive and many activities can be characterized as falling in one or more category. Additionally, although the terms "computer crime" and "cybercrime" are more properly restricted to describing criminal activity in which the computer or network is a necessary part of the crime, these terms are also sometimes used to include traditional crimes, such as fraud, theft, blackmail, forgery, and embezzlement, in which computers or networks are used to facilitate the illicit activity. Cyber crime is also a major issue these days in the world as many people are hacking into computer systems.

Roles computers play in commission of a crime[]

  • Computer as Target: The purpose of the crime can be to destroy, damage or hold for ransom the computer facility itself, computer hardware, computer programs, the computerized data base, or printouts of valuable data.
  • Computer as Subject: A computer can be the site or environment of a crime. Illicitly gained assets or stolen information can be stored indefinitely in the computer for later use.
  • Computer as Instrument: Complex financial schemes to defraud can be accomplished by using the computer as a tool or instrumentality of the crime, either actively (e.g. by transferring assets) or passively (e.g. by creating a false record of corporate assets to mislead outsiders as to the financial stability of a corporation).
  • Computer as Symbol: The computer can be used to create a record which when presented to the victim serves to intimidate or deceive him into parting with something of value.

Types of computer crimes[]

"Computer crime" can broadly be defined as criminal activity involving an information technology infrastructure, including illegal access (unauthorized access), illegal interception (by technical means of non-public transmissions of computer data to, from or within a computer system), data interference (unauthorized damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration or suppression of computer data), systems interference (interfering with the functioning of a computer system by inputting, transmitting, damaging, deleting, deteriorating, altering or suppressing computer data), misuse of devices, forgery (ID theft), and electronic fraud.

Criminals may use the Internet for numerous purposes, including:

Frequently used federal statutes[]

The following statutes are used most frequently by the FBI to investigate computer-related crimes:

  • 18 U.S.C. §875 Interstate Communications: Including Threats, Kidnapping, Ransom, Extortion
  • 18 U.S.C. §1029 Possession of Access Devices
  • 18 U.S.C. §1030 Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
  • 18 U.S.C. §1343 Fraud by wire, radio or television
  • 18 U.S.C. §1361 Injury to Government Property
  • 18 U.S.C. §1362 Government communication systems
  • 18 U.S.C. §1831 Economic Espionage Act of 1996
  • 18 U.S.C. §1832 Trade Secrets Act[2]


  1. Information Technology Security Handbook, Annex 1, Glossary.
  2. Each state has different laws and procedures that pertain to the investigation and prosecution of computer crimes.


See also[]

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