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What Does Cybercrime Mean?

In general, cybercrime is defined as either a crime involving computing against a digital target or a crime in which a computing system is used to commit criminal offenses.


As a broad category of crime, cybercrime includes such disparate sorts of activities as illegal access of data, use of computer communications to commit fraud, or the ransoming of systems via digital means.

Cybercrime may also be referred to as computer crime.

Techopedia Explains Cybercrime

In a very general sense, cybercrime can be split into two fundamental types—the type in which criminals target networks, and the type in which people commit criminal acts by using computing systems.

Another way to talk about this is that the complexity of cybercrime has grown along with the complexity of computing systems. In the 1980s, cybercrime would most likely involve representing fraudulent data on a workstation or simple network, or hacking a network to achieve criminal outcomes.

Nowadays, the scenery of the cybercrime world is much more complex. One type of cybercrime involves data breaches where hackers and black hat operators compromise the privacy of sensitive data assets. Then there are various types of crimes where cyberattacks target networks to shut down various mission-critical computing operations maintained by governments or businesses. The phenomenon of cyberwarfare applies wherever a nation targets another nation’s networks or their proxies.

In the “other world” of cybercrime, where computers are used to pursue criminal activities, there’s a wide gamut of criminal operations that apply, ranging from using computers for sex trafficking or fraud to using computers to direct systems that can harm people physically. Because the power of computers has become so broad, the nature of cybercrime has evolved accordingly.

Another broad area of cybercrime is relatively new. Cryptocurrency cybercrime happens when computers are used to illegally obtain or manipulate digital assets.

This type of cybercrime is as new as the practice of using cryptocurrency or tokenized assets that are represented in digital form.

In the old days, cybercrime did not include the fraudulent or illegal handling or theft of these digital assets, because the digital assets themselves didn’t exist. Now, by contrast, there are all sorts of electronic assets sitting in digital wallets, and cyber-thieves trying to steal them.

There’s also a new kind of cryptocurrency cybercrime in which operators are targeted for misleading investors or misrepresenting digital assets themselves in a fraudulent way.

All of this means that the world of cybercrime is sufficiently vast to require many different kinds of law enforcement. Security professionals increasingly wear many “hats” in the world of law enforcement and use more evolved models to target cybercriminals.

One prime example of this is a major kind of cybercrime that is called ransomware. In ransomware operations, the cybercriminal uses a computing system to hold some asset “ransom” for payment. The cryptocurrency angle usually comes into play when ransomware scheme operators often use Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency for payment, because it is less traceable than fiat currencies. There’s even the emergence of ransomware-as-a-service, in which criminals web deliver ransomware equipment to other criminals.

As shown, the world of cybercrime has become diverse, and relevant to many types of modern business as well as consumer and citizen safety.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.