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March 21, 2021updated 26 Oct 2022 2:15pm

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is becoming an increasing threat.

By Alexander Sword

Cybercrime refers to crimes carried out using computers or the internet.

This falls broadly into two categories: crimes committed that relate to computers themselves or traditional crimes conducted over the internet.

Hacking, for example, meaning gaining unauthorised entry to a system or network, is an example of the former.

In the UK, hackers end up charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, which was passed by the British government to try to introduce some controls over the growing threat of hacking.

The law makes it a crime to access a computer without permission, to access a computer without permission in order to break another law and to change, break or copy files without permission.

Other cybercrimes covered under the Computer Misuse Act include using malware to infect people’s computers. This is because malware constitutes changing the contents of a computer system without permission.

(Image: Shutterstock)

What is phishing?

The law also covers the creation of malware or anything that can be used to violate the other sections of the law.

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The latter category includes crimes that have now moved to the internet, such as fraud, identity theft and credit card account thefts. It could also include offences such as hate crimes.

Phishing attacks, for example, which involve sending out fraudulent communications with the aim of harvesting the victims’ data, are punishable under fraud laws after amendments to the existing law were made in 2005.

Identity theft, which simply means impersonating another person using their credentials, can also take place online. This personal information could include passport numbers, bank details or even information as mundane and seemingly innocuous as a name or date of birth.

Online, data is regularly harvested by cyber criminals through a range of methods. This includes broad-brush approaches to cybercrime such as phishing, which can beguile unsuspecting victims into sharing information.

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