What are the four main categories of computer crimes and what is an example of each one?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Different people have different lists of types of computer crimes.  Here is a list of four main types of crimes, with a fifth type that is sometimes added to the four:

  • Internal computer crimes
  • Telecommunications crimes
  • Computer manipulation crimes
  • Theft of computer hardware or software
  • Use of computers in support of other crimes

Internal computer crimes are things like the planting of viruses in people’s computers.  We can see an example of this in the article below.  In that incident, an employee of the financial services company UBS planted malicious software in company computers because he was angry about not getting a large enough bonus.  His act cost the company millions of dollars in clean-up costs and undisclosed amounts of lost business.

The best-known type of telecommunications crime is hacking.  This is called “telecommunications crime” because the criminal uses long-distance communications to illegally access a computer network.  In 2014, a famous example of this occurred in which Target had the credit card data of millions of its customers stolen. 

Computer manipulation crimes are simply crimes in which a person manipulates computer files to cover up crimes they have committed.  This typically consists of covering up embezzlement.  This is a very common type of crime as it requires very little expertise. For example, in a town near where I live, a church employee used a church credit card to buy personal items and covered his tracks by changing computer records of the transactions.

Theft of computer hardware or software includes, most famously, software piracy.  The best-known example of this is file-sharing.  Every person who downloads a movie or an album from a torrent site is committing this crime.  It is, of course, immensely widespread today.

The use of computers in support of other crimes is a computer crime that is not always categorized as such.  This is because the computer is really incidental to the crime in much the same way that a getaway car is rather incidental to the actual crime of robbery.  This can include any sort of crime where computers are used.  For example, most fake documents are made using computers and printers.