The use of computers and the internet has expanded exponentially over the years. Along with this increased use of the World Wide Web comes a surge of crimes that are specific to the cyber world and very detrimental to a society that relies on these computers. Everyone who uses the internet is a potential victim. In the enforcement of these criminal offenses, it is imperative to incarcerate the small percentage who are criminal users and to protect the majority of users who are innocent. There is a broad spectrum of computer and internet crimes and they are often covered by both state and federal laws.
Computer offences can be defined as a crime in which a computer, or a network of computers, are used in the commission of the crime. If an individual takes advantage of the internet in the commission of a crime, this is sometimes called a netcrime. The direct victim of a computer crime can either be the computer, or network, itself. These crimes can victimize something independent of the network such as a consumer by simply using a computer during the crime.
Crimes that target computers specifically include things such as the implementation of computer viruses. Another type of this crime is sometimes referred to as a denial-of-service attack which is aimed at bringing down a particular network. The introduction of malware to a network is also a direct attack on a computer. Examples of malware are trojan horses and spyware. These are forms of unwanted software which infect a computer and are also referred to as a computer contaminant. Cyber terrorism is a form of this type of crime in which the perpetrator attempts to bring down a large scale computer network to interrupt its users and create panic.
Examples of computer crimes with independent victims are cyberstalking, identity theft, and phishing. Some other common examples that are often publicized in the media are the distribution of child pornography and hate propaganda. Cyber terrorism and those distributing hate propaganda are directly linked because they are often perpetrated by the same organization or organizations with similar goals.
With such a variety of offenses related to the cyber world, many worry that they will be subject to prosecution if they wander into an inappropriate website or inadvertently spread malware. The truth of the matter is that in the majority of state and federal statutes regulating computer crimes, the laws are written specifically to target those who indicate that they "knowingly" and/or "willingly" perpetrated one of these offenses.
The agents who investigate these crimes, along with the prosecutor, carry the burden of showing that a person had the intent to commit the computer crime. A knowledgeable criminal lawyer can provide the expertise to defend those who may find themselves prosecuted for something that they did not have the intent to commit.