Computer crime is on the rise and as more people do more things online, the incidence of criminal activity is expected to continue. In addition to not falling victim to computer crimes, you also need to ensure what you are doing online is not illegal. Technology is constantly changing and it can be difficult to keep up with what is and is not legal.
What are the five most common computer crimes?
Use of Malware
Malware is an umbrella term for viruses, worms, and other nefarious software programs intended to separate a computer user and his or her information or money. Some of the more popular malware programs appear to be virus software alerting users to an infection and asking that they purchase a related product to remove the virus. In reality, the seemingly helpful alert message is actually the virus and when you enter your payment information into the system to purchase “protection,” you are actually supplying that information to criminals.
To avoid falling victim to malware, do not download software from sites you do not trust. Avoid pirated software and do not open files unless you know their source. Avoiding accusations of law breaking when it comes to malware is simple: do not send viruses to other computer users and do not attempt to gain access to anyone’s information without their permission.
Stealing a Person’s Identity
Millions of people each year fall victim to identity theft. Someone gains access to their personal information and uses it for his or her own benefit. Hackers have the ability to gain access to financial accounts or social security numbers and destroy a person’s life.
To avoid having your identity stolen, never log into financial accounts using a public computer. Never share personal information in email, instant messaging, or any type of unencrypted communication. Any time you make a purchase online, check to ensure the site is secure and never provide your credit card information to a site that is not known to be reputable.
Chances are good you will not be accused of identity theft unless you step over the line and intend to commit a crime. If accusations do arise, you should contact an attorney familiar with computer crimes immediately.
The final three most common computer crimes on the list are the type that are more likely to trigger unwarranted accusations.
Cyber stalking is exactly what it sounds like: using the computer to stalk someone, harass them, and gain uninvited access to their life. Stalking is a common accusation in domestic violence cases and other family legal disputes, so if you are in the midst of ending a relationship, it is better to avoid interacting with your former romantic partner online. Any interaction can be twisted to look like an unwanted advance, so the less time you spend on social media sites the better. And never, under any circumstances, attempt to gain access to a former love interest’s email or other personal information online.
It is no secret the Internet is a hot bed for pornographic material. Much of it is perfectly legal to access, but just as much of it is illegal because it features underage participants. Exploiting children online is big business and if you are accused of viewing child pornography without realizing you are doing anything wrong, you would not be the first person. To avoid breaking the law regarding child pornography, use common sense: never click on anything suspicious and if you cannot be 100% sure what you are downloading or viewing, avoid it.
The best way to avoid breaking laws associated with spam is to never send anyone an email without that person’s permission. If you operate any sort of organization or business online, make sure you offer an opt-in and opt-out feature for email and keep careful records of recipient requests. If you are accused of spamming, put your current email methods on hold and contact an attorney.
If you would like to learn more about these and other computer crimes, check out the FBI’s cybercrimes website.
Worried you might be accused of a computer crime? Think someone is trying to trick you into breaking the law online? You need legal support. David Lindsey can help. Contact him to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.