The internet can be an incredibly valuable resource for information, communication, and human connection.  Unfortunately, for all the good it provides, it possesses a dark side as well. Cybercrime is growing exponentially across the world, and it is undeniably one of the fastest growing areas of criminal justice.

Cybercrime is broadly defined as criminal activity that occurs within the sphere of cyberspace. Cybercriminal activity costs its targets billions of dollars annually. Part of the reason cybercrime is so prevalent is that it exists in many different forms and can affect virtually anyone. As the world tries to catch up with this fast-growing, new type of crime, the legal consequences for those who commit them are constantly changing. This article will explore and explain the various categories of cybercrime and the potential consequences if you have been accused of them.

Hacking

Hacking, obtaining unauthorized access to a network, network device, or information system, is easily one of the most recognizable cybercrimes. Individuals who carry out these cybercrimes are called hackers.

An important caveat regarding hacking is that the act of hacking is not in and of itself illegal. Many companies employ hackers to identify and repair weaknesses in security systems. Hackers that pursue work on the right side of the law are known as white hat hackers. Illegal black hat hackers can face thousands in legal fines and prison time of up to 10 years, depending on the impact of their crime.

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Phishing Scams

Phishing Scams are running rampant in today’s internet. These scams involve deceiving targets into releasing private or sensitive information, such as finances, social security numbers, bank accounts, passwords or credit card data.  Phishing generally starts with cold contact, via email, phone, or text message. Usually, the scammer will impersonate a representative of the target’s bank, service provider or utility company and ask for sensitive information under the guise of updating records or protecting against fraudulent activity.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is often the result of phishing scams. When a cybercriminal has obtained personal information, they then use it to steal from the target by impersonating them.  This crime targets information such as bank account information, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. The methods for obtaining this information include email phishing, malware injection, and brute force attacks.  The consequences for the perpetrator range from fines to prison time depending on the impact of the crime.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of the internet to closely monitor and harass an individual online, usually anonymously.  The target’s online information will be used to find out the target’s address, place of work, school, or other information about their offline life, usually for sinister purposes. Cyberstalking is unique in that it often leads to a physical crime, such as rape, assault, or even murder in severe cases.  

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is another highly publicized type of cybercrime.  Cyberbullying is the deliberate, targeted online harassment of an individual by another individual or group. Cyberbullying can take many forms, but most commonly it is repeated abusive messages, videos, photos, unlawfully obtained nude images of the target, or fake accounts made with the express purpose of harassing the target.  Cyberbullying cases have resulted in self-harm and suicide, and as a result, laws are being passed globally to criminalize this behavior. Depending on the severity, this can result in steep fines or even prison time.

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