Legal Guide

8 Common Examples of Computer Crimes to Look Out For

Billions of people use the internet every day. The majority of them do so with the aim of sharing meaningful connections, finding truth, and being entertained.

Some, however, take to the internet to take advantage of others. In many cases, the actions involved with that activity constitute a crime.

There are several types of computer crimes that people face. It's probably rare when you dwell on those crimes but when you become a victim of somebody's malicious intent, the negative power of the internet becomes all too real.

To offer more context on what exactly constitutes a computer crime, our team has compiled a handful of examples that you'll want to watch out for.

1. Distributing Viruses With Intent to Harm

One of the most common types of computer crimes that have been around for decades is writing and distributing computer viruses. Computer viruses are generally created to harm people that unwittingly install them on their machines.

How viruses carry out their attacks vary. For example, some exist to steal information while others exist to destroy computer hardware.

Given that data theft and destruction of property are both illegal, so too is the act of distributing viruses.

The only context in which virus distribution is okay would be for educational purposes, say, in a scholastic setting where students learn about virus protection.

2. Online Harassment

People are entitled to a modicum of peace and privacy, even online. That means that bullying, making sexual remarks, or engaging with a person on any level after they've requested no more contact can be seen as harassment.

In many localities, certain forms of harassment may constitute a felony.

If you're being subjected to harassment directly or indirectly online, a computer crimes lawyer can help you get your harasser to stop. They may even be able to collect damages on your behalf.

3. Stealing Payment Information

Most types of computer crimes are centered around wanting to get money from others. This is why theft of payment information is among the most common crimes you'll run into on the World Wide Web.

Theft of payment information can come about in a few ways. Most commonly, computer users enter their payment data into a site that isn't secure. In other cases, a virus lives on a person's computer that logs keystrokes and transmits that data back to a third-party who then uses or sells that information.

When payment information theft is suspected, you must take steps to immediately cancel any form of payment associated with that theft.

4. Relaying Other's Personal Information

Whether in jest or with malicious intent, taking people's personal information and relaying it without their permission is a form of harassment.

For example, signing somebody up for an embarrassing magazine could be a crime. Similarly, somebody sharing your address online to violate your privacy could also be a punishable computer-related offense.

5. Viewing Illegal Content

Depending on which country you live in, you may be subjected to a filtered internet. Even in countries where the internet is free, there is still certain content you can't view online without potentially being charged.

The most common content that's not acceptable for viewing is child pornography. In many cases, even looking at lewd content that's drawn of underage people could get you in trouble depending on where you live.

State and federal authorities routinely police underage pornographic content online and track IP addresses of people that view said content to find and charge them.

6. Buying and Selling Illegal Items

If there's something you know would be illegal to sell in person, it's probably illegal to sell online.

For example, drugs. Distributing drugs online will get you in just as much trouble as in-person distribution. In some cases, more.

Circumvention of buying and selling rules is what has led to the proliferation of black market websites which serve as online marketplaces for illicit substances, payment information, private documents, and more.

7. Industrial Spying

When you're on a company's website, there are limits to how they can leverage the data you share with them both intentionally and unintentionally. If that use of data is abused, even if that abuse is outlined in a corporation's Terms of Use, it could be considered a computer crime.

Corporations are held to stringent standards when it comes to data management and are routinely sued by people that feel their online privacy rights have been violated.

8. Intellectual Property Theft

While seemingly harmless, if you copy a picture you like off of a Google image search and share it on your blog, you could be liable for thousands of dollars worth of damages. That and other forms of IP theft (downloading a song for instance) are all computer crimes that are being taken on by "Copyright Troll" lawyers that seek to shake settlements out of unnamed, and unwitting internet users.

Err on the side of caution any time you're touching somebody else's online work.

Avoid the Types of Computer Crimes We've Shared and Stay Out of Trouble

Some types of computer crimes we've shared are straight forward. Others might seem harmless to casual computer users.

It's important to get as educated as possible on what can be construed as a crime. Not doing so could land you on the wrong end of a lawsuit or in prison.

We hope the context we've shared on computer crimes helps to keep you safe and we welcome you to browse more of the legal content on our blog for additional guidance.

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