Computer crime encompasses a wide range of offences. Some of these are the same as non-computer offences, such as fraud or larceny, except that, in the former, a computer or the internet is used to commit the crime. Others, such as hacking, are exclusively associated with computers.
Cyber - crime laws prohibit someone from carrying out actions without proper authorization, and may include amongst others:
- Improperly accessing a computer, system or network;
- Using, damaging, disclosing, changing, copying programs or data;
- Introducing a virus into a computer;
- Falsifying email source information;
- Interfering with someone else's computer access or use.
Much of cybercrime is fraud involving the use of a computer. Losing a computer or data due to cybercrime is extremely harsh, particularly as businesses rely more and more on networks to carry out their operations. Unfortunately, cybercrime has no borders and according to the modern definition, cyber-attack is a deliberate attempt to impact the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer networks and electronic services.
If you are a private individual, there are various ways to protect yourself against cybercrime, such as:
- Not posting or providing any sensitive personal information online;
- Using passwords that are difficult to hack and ensuring you change these often;
- Not carrying out financial transactions on public computers or on unprotected networks;
- Installing a good anti-virus program on your computer and updating it regularly;
- Being wary of downloading software from untrustworthy websites.
Cyber - crimes are the sign of the future, even though they may just be new ways of committing a crime (such as fraud, identity theft or embezzlement). In such an instance, the use of an expert criminal lawyer can be relied on to handle your situation and advise the best course of action. This also applies in cases where you may be accused of this crime, without proper justification.
Regrettably, the internet and social network sites have introduced a whole new arena for predators to carry out their devious and unlawful activities, i.e. cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is aggressive harassment that takes place using electronic technology, including mobile telephones, tablets, social media and chat sites. This includes a variety of acts, such as spreading malicious and abusive rumours, intimidation or blackmail, as well as creating fake profiles intended to harm victims.
Victims should report this crime to parents (if a minor), network providers, and to law enforcement officers. These crimes carry their own distinct set of penalties ranging from fines, community service to prison sentences, depending on the severity of the crime.
Unfortunately, the internet has provided child pornographers and child molesters with a useful tool to prey on children. If your child has been targeted you should contact the law enforcement authorities immediately and seek professional help. Victims are often afraid to report such abusive behaviour and are embarrassed to bring this crime into the open for fear of victimization or they may have been threatened by the perpetrator. They may even feel guilty that they have somehow encouraged the perpetrator to behave in this way.
On the rise are websites which charge a fee to process or renew official documents, such as renewing a passport or booking a driving test, which consumers can do either for free or much cheaper for themselves. Advertisements for these kinds of services feature prominently in search results. These 'copycat' websites' are deliberately designed to look like government sites and then charge people for services that are available directly from the government either at no cost or for a lower fee.
Surprisingly, these websites may be legitimate, as it is not against the law for a company to offer a service for assisting with official bodies. Where this does, however, become illegal is when the company overtly and deliberately misleads the public and therefore obtains money by fraudulent means. Businesses have a duty to trade fairly and must make it quite clear that they are not affiliated with the government and that consumers will be paying for a service which they could obtain from the government site for free or at a lower cost.
Consumers are warned to be on the lookout for copycat websites, and to try and spot the difference between natural search results and paid-for search results. It often happens in these cases that the consumer does not realize that he has to pay a handling fee in addition to paying for the service.
Avoid becoming a target
If you are being sent malicious or threatening messages or emails, do not delete them as these can be used to help the police authorities identify the bully and bring the perpetrator to court. Remember that even people who are using fake names and email addresses can be traced. You should ignore these messages by not replying to them, even though you may know the person sending these messages. Seek advice on how to put an end to the bullying, once and for all.
Organizations that offer advice and support, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic renders individuals and society extremely vulnerable in all respects. During this crisis, we are all increasingly relying on computer systems, mobile devices and the internet to work, communicate, shop, share and receive information and otherwise reduce the negative impact of lockdowns and social distancing.
There is evidence that malicious individuals may exploit our vulnerabilities during this challenging period for their own personal gain. Criminal justice authorities need to engage in full cooperation to detect, investigate and prosecute the above offences and, at this crucial time, bring to justice those who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for their own criminal purposes.
Following the Convention on Cybercrime held in Budapest almost twenty years ago, the first international treaty was signed seeking to address internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques and increasing cooperation among nations. Among other things, the treaty mandated participating countries to adopt legislation outlawing specified cyber-related crimes.
One of the provisions of the treaty (as amended) envisions a mechanism by which law enforcement in one country can directly demand subscriber information from another country without going through official channels. To obtain content data and an intermediate category of so-called 'traffic data', countries will still need to work through mutual legal assistance or diplomatic channels.
In Cyprus, the specialized body for cybercrime investigation is the Office for Combatting Cybercrime (OCC) of the Cyprus Police. The Office was established in September 2007 in order to implement the law on the Convention Against Cyber Crime (Ratifying Law) L22(III)/2004. This legislation covers hacking, child pornography and fraud committed via electronic communication.
On a local level, there are several organizations and institutions in Cyprus which aim at educating and raising awareness regarding the safe and responsible use of the internet by the general public, and in particular minor children. One of these organizations is The European Project, 'Cyprus Safer Internet Centre (SIC) - CyberSafety - Better Internet for Kids' (BIK), which, in collaboration with its partners, offers presentations, lectures and workshops for learners, teachers and parents.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.