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What Are the Different Types of Computer Crime?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “computer crime” describes a wide range of criminal activity involving the use of computers. In general usage, it refers specifically to crimes perpetrated through the Internet or other computer networks employed by businesses or governments. Notorious forms of computer crime include the spreading of viruses and hacking into networks to steal or release private information. The sharing of copyrighted material has long been a controversial and illegal practice on the Internet. Criminals also use computers to stalk, harass or exploit others.

Crime existed long before computers, but since the technological revolution of the 20th century, many forms of crime have involved the use of computers in some way. Even if computers are not directly employed in commission of the crime, records relating to the crime may be retained in computers or computer networks. For this reason, investigators may seize computer equipment as evidence, or require network providers to release records or data that may be pertinent to a criminal investigation. Most law enforcement agencies employ specialists in computer forensics for investigations of computer crime and computer-related crimes.

The most well known form of computer crime involves “hacking,” the practice of breaking into private computer networks. Hackers were once considered harmless outlaws, but in the 21st century, they can access vast quantities of private information on whole populations. Sometimes this information is used for identity theft; other times, the information is simply leaked to public sites, where other criminals can exploit it. Governments are sometimes suspected of hacking the sites of businesses or other nations, a practice called “cyber warfare.”

Another notorious method of computer crime is the computer virus, a program designed to hack into a user’s computer, replicate itself and spread to other computers. Some viruses are called spyware, because they send the user’s private information to another location. “Scareware” describes ads or programs that claim to detect a nonexistent virus on a user’s computer, then direct the user to a site or program that actually does contain a virus. The collective term for these programs is “malware,” short for “malicious software.” Another kind of virus can effectively shut down a website by saturating its network with activity; this crime is known as a denial-of-service attack.

Vast amounts of personal information are available on the Internet, particularly since the rise of social networks. Criminals sometimes take advantage of this information to stalk or harass individuals. Child exploitation is a particularly egregious example of this. Other criminal uses of social networks include “cyber bullying” or even murder for hire, as in a well-publicized 2011 case in the United States. Any suspected case of computer crime should be immediately reported to a law enforcement agency and to the related computer network’s administrators.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Feryll — On Nov 04, 2014

Because of computer crime, I refuse to use my debit card online. It's too dangerous and not worth the risk.

By Animandel — On Nov 03, 2014

A large group of us from work went to a restaurant one evening and several of us used credit cards or debit cards to pay our bills. A few weeks later, all of us who used our cards at the restaurant had outrageous charges on our bank card statements.

We assumed that one of the workers at the restaurant had stolen our card information from the receipts. As it turned out, someone had hacked into the restaurant computer system, gotten the card information and then used that information to make purchases.

By mobilian33 — On Nov 03, 2014

When using your home computer, I think if you stay away from the dangerous websites and you install a really good anti-virus system then you stand a good chance of not having any problems with computer crime. I have had plenty of problems with my computers, but those problems had nothing to do with hacking or picking up viruses.

By Sporkasia — On Nov 02, 2014

Anyone who uses a computer should do so with the understanding that there is no such of a things as total privacy. Regardless of how much security and what types of computer security programs you have installed on your computer your system can be compromised, and you are vulnerable to computer crime.

So when you send emails, store pictures, and store sensitive information on your computer ask yourself what if this information were made public. Is it too sensitive to have on your computer?

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