Crimes Committed on the Internet
The prevalence of the Internet has created a new category of crime — cybercrime. Cybercrime is simply an ordinary criminal act committed by the use of a computer. The use of the computer seldom changes the nature of the crime, although it does raise issues of detection, preservation of evidence, and enforcement.
The amount of data stored in computers provides increasing opportunities for that information to be stolen or misused. Data manipulation or theft can result in significant financial losses for business. Although advances in computer security systems have made some kinds of computer crime more difficult, business are still subject to potential theft of financial information, copyright or trademark information, or other forms of proprietary information.
A less direct form of cybercrime is the use of the computer to impersonate another person. After using the computer to steal “identity” information, the criminal then poses as the victim to access the financial resources of the victim. The ease of stealing identity information and the plentiful access to financial resources on the Internet has caused the rate of reported identity thefts to skyrocket. Some estimates place the number of identity theft victims at more than 300,000 per year.
More and more law enforcement efforts are directed at the detection and prevention of cybercrime. Cybercrimes are often difficult to detect. Even when the results of the crime are known, prosecuting the offenders requires an intimate knowledge of computers, computer networks, computer security systems, and computer data storage. Many legal professionals find this area of the criminal law offers tremendous opportunities for specialization. In response to this rapidly growing area of crime, state and federal legislatures have enacted statutes specifically directed at controlling cybercrime.