Cybercrime, also called computer crime, is any illegal activity that involves a computer or network-connected device, such as a mobile phone. The Department of Justice divides cybercrime into three categories: crimes in which the computing device is the target, for example, to gain network access; crimes in which the computer is used as a weapon, for example, to launch a denial of service (DoS) attack; and crimes in which the computer is used as an accessory to a crime, for example, using a computer to store illegally-obtained data.
The growth of the internet has enabled an increase in the volume of cybercrime activities because there is no longer a need for the criminal to be physically present when committing a crime. The internet’s speed, convenience, anonymity and lack of borders makes computer-based variations of financial crimes, such as theft, money laundering or fraud, and hate crimes, such as stalking and bullying, easier to carry out.
Cybercrime may be committed by individuals or small groups, as well as by criminal organizations that are often spread around the world and committing crimes on an unprecedented scale. Cybercrime has the unusual characteristic that the victim and the perpetrator may never come into direct contact; in many cases, perpetrators and victims are separated by thousands of miles. To further reduce the chances of detection and prosecution, cybercriminals often choose to operate in countries with weak or nonexistent cybercrime laws.