Criminal Justice

Categories of Computer Crime

With the ever-growing expansion of computer technology and internet resources, criminals are finding new ways every day to combine technology, intelligence and resourcefulness to commit many crimes.  These crimes are not always well-known or easy to track, but the government and criminal justice services throughout the country realize a continuing need to advance their methodologies to identify criminal behavior, track criminal activity and ultimately place criminals behind bars.  For this reason, it is necessary to identify many of the frequent crimes experienced in today’s society in addition to the current methods by which government and police force agencies are working to restrict criminal activity.  These crimes can include fraudulent activity, spam, unauthorized access to programs and data, and intellectual property theft.

The first and perhaps most invasive criminal behavior is computer or systems fraud.  Fraud is achieved by the manipulation of computer records (Department of Justice).  One example of fraudulent behavior is common within banking institutions where items are purchased using credit cards or bank accounts that are not owned by the individual making the purchase.  Commonly, this type of fraudulent behavior involves the stealing of private data such as social security numbers, bank account or PIN numbers.  In this example, fraudulent behavior is used at the expense of others in order to acquire personal, financial or monetary gain.

In recent years, spamming has become a hot topic by government legislators in responding to the outcry from citizens throughout the country.  Spamming is not only a violation of personal rights but can ultimately lead to illegal soliciting for services to minors and individuals without their own consent.  Due to the growing prevalence in spamming behaviors and activities, spamming is often outlawed or under government regulations in certain states to control the type and frequency of spamming (Kovec & Seager, 1995).  Spamming seeks to bombard consumers with a series of advertisements, false claims and misleading links that can have negative consequences to the recipient.  For instance, several key examples include pornographic links along with web sites that automatically download cookie Trojan horse viruses to the user’s computer for current and future data infringement.

A similar crime associated with fraud and spamming is the unauthorized access to programs and data.  As discussed with fraud, a common example of this crime can involve coming upon, whether intentionally or unintentionally, private identification passwords or account numbers.  For instance, one example of this type of crime can involve the practice of computer or systems hacking.  Hacking bypasses authorization requirements such as usernames and passwords in order to gain access to data.  In the past, hacking was identified when someone stole data for illegal use by “breaking in” to a computer or system’s authorization process.  Under this definition, hacking was viewed as highly invasive with a strong intent to cause harm to others.  However, hacking has since evolved to include unauthorized access to programs or data which may or may not be intentionally harmful (Computer Crime Research Center, 2005).  Under this definition, companies and regulatory agencies may now prosecute for data infringement and hacking regardless of intent and motive.

Above all else, intellectual property theft has become one of the most highly debated and regulated subjects since the emersion of Napster and the reproduction and downloading of movies, music and television episodes online.  Illegally pirating of movies and software electronically has cost companies and artists millions of dollars annually and continues to pose a great threat to the economy (Department of Justice).  The federal government has increased the penalties and fines associates with such behaviors and has also most recently eliminated the requirement that individuals seek monetary gain in order to profit financially from stealing copyrighted materials.  Nonetheless, it is very clear that these behaviors are detrimental to society and the government has led the way to show how destructive they can be by implementing high penalties with jail time.

Due to the growing threat of computer crimes, companies and government agencies must take action to protect against criminal behavior.  For instance, many companies are able to deter criminal activity from within the organization by performing quality background checks on all personnel, creating and maintaining strict separation of duties, and implementing quality controls to ensure proper authorization of all financial and electronic data transactions (Scams & safety).  The federal and state governments must take an active role toward eliminating the potential for fraudulent activity and reducing the ways in which criminals can illegally come into contact with personal data.  Efforts have already been made the Department of Justice to begin an active campaign toward devising new methodologies for ensuring greater internet security systems as well as tracking potential hacking and spamming activities.




Computer Crime Research Center. (26 November, 2005). Types of Computer Crimes. Retrieved from

Department of Justice. (n.d.). Computer crime & intellectual property section. Retrieved from

Kovec & Seager, D. &. K. (1995). Computer crime: A crimefighter’s handbook. O’Reilly Online. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Scams & safety: How to protect your computer. Retrieved from Federal Bureau of Investigations website: