The Human Element of Cybercrime

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Cybercrime extends past a computer to incorporate a human element. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the key players involved in a cybercrime incident, including the perpetrator, victim and investigator.

The Cybercrime Circle

When you think about cybercrime, the first word that comes to mind is probably ''computers,'' right? Yet, computers alone are not capable of committing crimes, which means there must be a human element at play.

The most obvious person you think of when the subject is cybercrime is the cybercriminal him or herself. Then, of course, there's probably someone on the opposite side of the equation - the person or people who have been victimized by the cybercriminal's activities. The final key player in the cybercrime triangle are the people who investigate those crimes committed using a computer.

In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at each member of a cybercrime incident and what role they play. You'll also learn about the relationship between people and cybercrime, such as how technology influences crime and what it means for an individual's willingness to commit a crime. Let's get started.

Roles in Cybercrime

In order for a cybercrime to occur, it has to start somewhere. That introduces us to our first human element.

The Perpetrator

Cybercriminals have been portrayed in thousands of televisions shows and movies, giving us a picture of what these perpetrators might look like. The problem is, most of these portrayals are rife with stereotypes that are inaccurate. Most depictions of those committing computer-based crimes portray the perpetrator as a smart and nerdy young male. He might be shown as being socially awkward or even glamorized because his crime isn't ''real'' like a physical assault on another person.

The truth is, there's not a single profile that is representative of a cybercriminal. They may be young or old, male or female, smart or simply opportunistic.

Most cybercriminals do exhibit some commonalities. They have some degree of comfortability using technology. Committing a computer-based crime means that the person behind it must be capable of doing things like sending an email or accessing websites. They are risk-takers and believe themselves to be capable of committing the crime without being caught. And, they often have strong motivations behind what they do ranging from acquiring money to emotional impulses or even mental health conditions.

The thing that sets one cybercriminal apart from another, however, might be how technology influences crime. Some perpetrators use computers to directly commit a crime, such as embezzling from their employer, while others use computers in relation to their crime, such as scanning online obituaries looking for homes to burglarize.

The Victim

Though many cybercrimes appear to be victimless (such as embezzling a small sum of money from a large corporation), there is always someone on the opposite side of the crime who suffers as a victim. It may be an individual who was conned into giving someone their credit card information online or it could even be a business that had money or confidential information stolen from it.

The victim is often the one who first notices and reports the cybercrime committed against them, working with law enforcement to seek prosecution or restitution. Some people find themselves the victim of cybercrime because they are new to the internet or disadvantaged in some way. Others may seek out the attention cybercriminals give because they are lonely or have emotional needs. Still, others are managers, owners, and stockholders of businesses that suffer from loss of productivity (if a computer system is hacked) or money (in the case of embezzlement). There could even be individuals who lose a job as a result of a hacker breaching computer security.

The Investigator

The final key player in the cybercrime environment is the investigator or investigators involved in collecting evidence and analyzing the case. When the term ''investigator'' is used in relation to cybercrime, the first thought might be toward police or detectives. But, there are other investigators involved as well, including (for businesses) internal investigators and IT personnel or even members of the FBI or Department of Justice.

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