A computer crime is any unlawful activity that is done using a computer. This definition can extend to traditional crimes that are committed with the machine, such as counterfeiting money, but it also includes more tech-savvy crimes, such as phishing or logic bombs. Using a computer in this way, a criminal may be able to conduct unlawful activity with more anonymity and may be able to get away with more before he is caught.
Stalking, soliciting sex, and counterfeiting can all be considered computer crimes if a computer is used to commit them. These crimes can be committed with or without a computer, but they are only considered when the computer is used in the process of committing them. For example, if a criminal uses a graphic design program to counterfeit money, it could fall under this category, as would a person who cyberstalks another by using a computer to harass them.
Many times, when a person thinks of this sort of crime, he thinks of the damage that can be caused by unauthorized access to a computer by a remote user, known as a hacker. These types of crimes can be costly and damaging, and hackers who have access to computers can change, delete, copy, or damage data. For instance, should a hacker get access to a personal computer, he may have access to bank accounts and credit card numbers. If the target computer belongs to a major company or a bank, company secrets as well as worker or customer personal information could be at risk.
Another devastating type of computer crime is a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. In this type of attack, a hacker may first take control of several people's computers using a type of malware. Then the hacker sends a message to so-called zombie computers to send almost continuous requests to a view a target Web site. The Web site's server can only handle so many inquiries at once, so it either crashes or denies service to legitimate people trying to access the page. As a result, this attack can cause trouble for both the owner of the site and the person trying to view it.
A DDOS attack crippled Web sites such as Yahoo, Amazon, e-bay, and CNN in February 2000. Though the servers were not attacked directly, the attacker was able to take control of several other computers that may not have had proper protection. Attacks such as this highlight how important it is to keep all computers shielded from computer crime. As many hackers use malware to commit this type of crime, a good sercurity software can be invaluable in protecting a computer. In addition, a proper firewall can also help keep hackers from accessing computers without authorization.