Many crimes that are not specifically related to computers can be substantially facilitated by the use of computers. The easy access of cyberspace can provide a low-cost high-connectivity way for criminals to reach victims. Computers can be used in a variety of roles in crimes. Each of these roles can raise novel investigative and prosecutorial issues because of the unique attributes of computers.
Computer crime costs industry and society billions of dollars every year. There is substantial evidence computer crime is increasing in scope and in complexity. Left unchallenged, computer crime will stifle the expansion of electronic commerce and, potentially, pose a serious threat to public health and safety.
Generally, computer crimes fall into three areas: First, there are crimes where the computer is the target -- so-called hacking or intrusion crimes. Second, there are crimes where computers are the medium by which the criminal conduct is committed. This would include software piracy, Internet fraud, and telephone toll fraud. Third, there are many crimes where computers are used incidentally to the criminal offense, such as when drug traffickers store information on computers or where the evidence of health care fraud or other white collar crimes are stored on computer networks. These three categories cover most forms of computer crime, and include many crimes such as software piracy and intrusion cases that are of concern to the high-tech industry. Some traditional forms of criminal activity -- such as cargo theft -- involve computers in the planning and research stage.
2. The Internet provides a low risk and potentially anonymous way for individuals to commit unlawful acts such as unauthorized access to private communications, attacks on the integrity of network systems, threats and extortion, financial fraud, the distribution of child pornography and the piracy of creative materials protected by intellectual property rights.