As we have become more dependent on technology in both our professional and personal lives, the threat of cyber crime has risen significantly. In fact in 2018 alone a total of £1.2 billion was stolen by criminals committing cyber fraud according to a report by UKFinance.org.
However, it’s not just fraud posing a threat; the term cyber crime refers to criminal activity of any kind that is conducted through, or using, an ICT device. This means it covers a whole host of offences from hacking to using technology to sell stolen goods or harass others.
There are 2 types of cyber crime and these are defined by the Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy as:
‘Crimes that can be committed only through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) devices, where the devices are both the tool for committing the crime, and the target of the crime.’
These are offences primarily directed against computers or network resources which can include:
- Hacking (unauthorised access)
- Malware (malicious software programming)
- DDos (distributed denial of service attack)
‘Traditional crimes which can be increased in scale or reach by the use of computers, computer networks or other forms of ICT.’
These can include:
- Identity theft
- Selling stolen or illegal goods
- Harassment/ malicious communications
- Cyber-enabled violence
- Child abuse offences
Hacking is the act of accessing computers or networks without authorisation by exploiting security vulnerabilities. There can be many motives for hacking but the main aims usually involve gaining information or causing disruption or damage.
Malware is a general label for malicious software or code including viruses, Trojans and spyware. It spreads between computers and interferes with computer operations. It tends to be used to cause disruption, for example by deleting files or causing systems to break, or to steal personal data. However, it is often used for a combination of all these offences
Spamming is the sending of unsolicited mail in bulk in breach of the Data Protection Act.
DDos & Dos attacks
These attacks are intended to make websites, services or networks unavailable to the users who depend on them, often to access or provide essential services.
Unfortunately, the list of cyber-enabled crimes is a long one, including the following:
Although much online fraud is easy to spot due to bad spelling and grammar and obviously faked company logos, criminals are coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways to defraud individuals and businesses including:
This includes selling counterfeit items such as jewellery or tickets on an online auction site. It can also involve more sophisticated scams such as fake websites selling items that do not exist, for example holiday rentals.
Phishing emails are sent in order to trick people into parting with sensitive information such as passwords, private databases or bank account numbers in order to steal money or data. Sometimes phishing incorporates pharming, where victims are directed to fake websites where they are asked to input private information or make payments.
Although the most common identity fraud arising from phishing is financial fraud such as credit card fraud, criminals can also use an individual’s identity to commit offences such as illegally entering or exiting a country or engaging in sophisticated money laundering operations.
Fraudsters use fake online identities to trick individuals into parting with personal information and sometimes significant amounts of money by pretending to be in an intimate relationship with them.
Selling and trading illegal items
Criminals use an encrypted network known as the dark web to buy and sell unlawful items such as drugs, stolen credit card details and firearms. As well as trading illegally, they use this network to exchange information about their activities.
Malicious and offensive communications
The rise of social media has led to the unfortunate rise of online ‘trolls’ who use social media to send abusive, threatening, offensive, obscene or untrue communications. This kind of behaviour, as recently demonstrated by the numerous online death threats received by MP Anna Soubry over her political views, can constitute a criminal offence.
Although crimes including the sharing of private images without permission, stalking, harassment and coercive control are most often perpetrated by males against females, this is not always the case. When this kind of abuse happens online, not only can it constitute a crime, it is very often a red flag for criminal behaviour offline.
Indecent images and grooming
Unfortunately the internet has provided a tool for those engaged in the sharing of indecent images, including those of children. Popular social media apps have also provided a vehicle for paedophiles to hide behind fake identities in order to groom children for nefarious purposes.
Cyber crime and the law
The UK has strict laws around cyber crime and committing a cyber offence can result in hefty fines and imprisonment, with life sentences possible in the most serious of cases, for example for a large-scale cyberattack that causes a threat to national security.
Cyber crime is an extremely complex area of the law because very often these crimes are not just covered under one Act.
One of the main laws covering cyber crime is the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 which covers unauthorised access and acts against computer systems, for example hacking or DDos.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which exists to regulate the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation is also called upon if applicable. Those accused could be charged under either this Act alone, the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, or both together.
The Data Protection Act 1998 created offences that are often committed alongside cyber crimes, including obtaining, disclosing and selling personal data. In May 2018, the new EU-wide GDPR laws tightened the regulations surrounding the use of individuals’ personal data.
The Fraud Act 2006 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 are also Acts which those suspected of cyber crime can be prosecuted under.
Expert defence for cyber crime case
As we have seen, cyber crime covers a huge variety and scale of crime. No matter what you have been accused of, it’s essential to contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer at the very beginning of the process. Contact us at Purcell Parker today to discuss the options available to you or call 0121 236 9781.