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What Is Cyber Crime? - Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:02 Cyber Crimes
  • 0:20 Computer Viruses
  • 2:03 Cyberstalking
  • 3:23 Identity Theft
  • 4:44 Phishing Scams
  • 6:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson, we will learn about cyber crimes. We will look at what these crimes are and what they mean. Then, we will take a closer look at some specific examples.

Cyber Crimes

Cyber crimes are any crimes that involve a computer and a network. In some cases, the computer may have been used in order to commit the crime, and in other cases, the computer may have been the target of the crime.

Computer Viruses

Computer viruses are computer programs that, when opened, put copies of themselves into other computers' hard drives without the users' consent. Creating a computer virus and disseminating it is a cyber crime. The virus may steal disk space, access personal information, ruin data on the computer or send information out to the other computer user's personal contacts.

The most common way for a virus to infect a computer is by way of an email attachment. An example would be if you received an email with an attachment. You open this attachment, and the virus immediately spreads through your computer system. In some cases, if the virus is opened by a computer on a system network, such as your place of employment, the virus can immediately be spread throughout the network without needing to be sent via email.

There are numerous reasons that a person would create a virus to send out to another computer or computers. It may be to steal information or money, to sabotage that system or to demonstrate the flaws that the other computer system has. In some cases these viruses are able to be removed from the user's computer system, and in some cases they are not. Therefore, it is easy for us to understand how these viruses cause significant financial harm every year. The punishment for those who damage or gain unauthorized access to a protected computer can be prison time and the repayment of financial losses.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or electronics to stalk or harass an individual, an organization or a specific group. There are many ways in which cyberstalking becomes a cyber crime. Cyberstalking can include monitoring someone's activity realtime, or while on the computer or device in the current moment, or while they are offline, or not on the computer or electronic device. Cyberstalking becomes a crime because of the repeated threatening, harassing or monitoring of someone with whom the stalker has, or no longer has, a relationship.

Cyberstalking can include harassment of the victim, the obtaining of financial information of the victim or threatening the victim in order to frighten them. An example of cyberstalking would be to put a recording or monitoring device on a victim's computer or smartphone in order to save every keystroke they make so that the stalker can obtain information. Another example would be repeatedly posting derogatory or personal information about a victim on web pages or social media despite being warned not to do so. Cyberstalking has the potential punishment of a prison sentence.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a form of stealing someone's personal information and pretending to be that person in order to obtain financial resources or other benefits in that person's name without their consent. Identity theft is considered a cyber crime. The personal information stolen can include the person's name, social security number, birth date or credit card numbers. This stolen information is then used to obtain new credit cards, access bank accounts or obtain other benefits, such as a driver's license.

Identity theft is completed by using breaches in the victim's browser security or through spyware, which is software placed unknowingly on a person's computer in order to obtain information. Identity theft can also be performed by hacking into computer networks to obtain personal data - sometimes in large amounts. For example, an individual could get your password and obtain your personal information that you entered into Amazon.com when you made a purchase in the past. He could then use your birth date and social security number in order to apply for a new driver's license in your name with his picture on it! Identity theft is punishable by a prison sanction.

Phishing Scams

Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords, by pretending to be a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. These scams are a type of cyber crime. These communications look like they are from a real entity, such as an individual's bank or online payment processor.

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