Working Definition of Computer Crime



  • Abstract
  • Definition
    Nature of Crimes
    Fighting Crime
  • Policy
  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Measuring
    Crimes of the Future
  • Information Theft
  • Cyber-Terrorism
    Pop Culture




  • A lot of literature on computer crime focuses on computer-related fraud. "Fraud is the intentional or deliberate perversion of truth in order to gain an unfair advantage" [Strothcamp sld. 2]. This is certainly a large part of computer crime but is perhaps a bit too narrow for our purposes. Many others, when they think of computer crime, only think of those who break into computers to steal or destroy information.

    We can get a slightly larger definition by examining what is actually investigated by law enforcement agencies. The FBI National Computer Crime Squad (NCCS) concerns itself with all crime involving computers in two or more states ["FBI Computer" 1]. It considers the following to be important computer crimes:

    • "Intrusions of the Public Switched Network (the telephone company)
    • Major computer network intrusions
    • Network integrity violations
    • Privacy violations
    • Industrial espionage
    • Pirated computer software
    • Other crimes where the computer is a major factor in committing the criminal offense" ["FBI Computer" 1]

    The _Jones Telecommunications & Multimedia Encyclopedia_ claims "Some issues being carefully studied by everyone from Net veterans and law enforcement agencies to radical pundits include:

    • Computer network break-ins
    • Industrial espionage
    • Software piracy
    • Child pornography
    • E-mail bombings
    • Password sniffers
    • Spoofing
    • Credit card fraud" ["Cybercrime" 2-3]

    These lists are useful for thinking about areas of computer crime, but a reasonably concise definition comes from the end of the NCCS list: "crimes where the computer is a major factor in committing the criminal offense" ["FBI Computer" 1]. This definition is perhaps a little vague, and so it might be useful to reduce it to crimes where the computer is the primary factor and not just a major factor. Any real- world definition is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, but this working definition will be helpful in thinking about what we consider computer crime.