There is no universally accepted definition of cybercrime (see Module 1 on Introduction to Cybercrime). This is mainly because cybercrime is an interdisciplinary topic. For this reason, interpretations will tend to vary according to the academic or professional disciplinary origins of the interested parties. The various interpretations of the phenomena found in broader literature and in this Module's text and readings do, however, identify some commonly occurring themes and characteristics, which can guide student's thinking on the topic. Some of the authors mentioned in these readings, more typically the science community, tend to view cybercrime primarily in terms of the level of transformation by digital and networked communications (Internet) technologies where the crime is either assisted ( cyber-assisted crime), enabled ( cyber-enabled crime) or dependent ( cyber-dependent crime) on these technologies. Others, for example, the legal and criminological communities, tend to see it more in terms of the different criminal actions or modus operandi (i.e., method of operation or M.O.) involved , such as crime against the computer (hacking) or crime using the computer (e.g. fraud, bullying), or crime in the computer (extreme sexual, hate or terrorism materials). Others, for example, political scientists, on the other hand, view cybercrime in terms of the impacts of cybercrime on, for example, politics, the political system, and governments (for more discussion see, Wall, 2017). Therefore, there exists much variation in approaches to cybercrime, which is reflected in the definitions of cybercrimes. Of course, the practical reality of cybercrime is that most cybercrimes fall within these three sets of dynamics. All three are credible ways of viewing cybercrime and any credible definition must therefore include all three. These three perspectives on cybercrime also become very relevant to the later discussion of the organization of crime online in Cybercrime Module 13 on Cyber Organized Crime.
Cybercrime therefore includes "new" crimes - those made possible because of the existence of information and communication technology (ICT) - such as offences against the privacy, confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems, and traditional crimes facilitated in some way by ICT, which include computer-related offences and content-related offences. Nevertheless, importantly, it also includes those "existing crimes", such as fraud, deception, bullying and harassment that are given a broader (global) reach by digital and networked technologies. Some commentators would also include crimes such as murders, burglaries or physical drug deals that are "assisted" by Internet technology, but Wall (2007; 2017) argues that such criminal behaviour is not transformed by Internet technologies and would have taken place regardless of its existence (see also Maras, 2014). Accordingly, this might be a useful point at which to generally draw a conceptual boundary around what is understood as cybercrime to differentiate it from other forms of offending.
This Module examines general types of cybercrime, the differences between them, and the manner in which they are perpetrated, utilizing the three general classifications of cybercrime identified in the 2013 UNODC Draft Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime (i.e., "acts against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data or systems"; "computer‐related acts for personal or financial gain or harm;" and "computer-content related acts") as a framework for analysis (p. 16).
These typologies and the cybercrimes that fit within these typologies tend to overlap. As noted in the UNODC Draft Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime, the list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to represent "act descriptions" that can be used as a starting point for analysis and discussion.
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