The psychology of cybercrime
The psychology of cybercrime

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1 What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime refers to criminal activities that are committed using internet technology. The internet has only been in widespread use by the general public for a few decades (a ‘start date’ could be considered to be the launch of the World Wide Web on the 6 August 1991), but online activity has already become ubiquitous in the developed world and is becoming progressively more common in much of the developing world as well (Naughton, 2016).

Psychologists studying cybercrime, including its perpetrators and victims, are interested both in what makes cybercrime unique (e.g. does online anonymity increase the propensity of some people to commit crimes of harassment?) as well as what it has in common with offline crime – although the emphasis is often on the former rather than the latter.

Before reading further complete Activity 1. In order to help you complete the activity, please watch the following video and then consider your perspectives on living online.

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Video 1 Everyday perspectives: engaging online
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Activity 1 Thinking about cybercrime

Timing: Allow 20 minutes

Try to answer the following questions about cybercrime, drawing on your experiences and understandings. Type your responses (up to 100 words for each question) in the box below, and then select ‘Save’. Your responses are not published anywhere.

1. Think about how you engage online. Make a list of the things you do online (e.g. social contact, looking for information, news, weather, sports, entertainment, studying online, shopping, bank, holiday booking and so on)

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2. Looking at your answers above, try to guess how much time you spend on a weekly basis on each activity and your potential victimisation

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Discussion

According to Ofcom (2020), 87% of UK adults spent an average of 25 hours online per week. People go online for the following reasons (How People use the internet, 2020):

  • social networks (including video calling)
  • email
  • be entertained (watching videos, music, online radio and podcasts)
  • get information (search, blogs)
  • news (including online newspapers, magazines)
  • online games
  • banking
  • work (either earning money online or using the internet to work remotely)
  • shopping
  • education
  • other access.

You might have put online fraud (such as issues around scams and various security breaches when paying or banking online. You might have thought about more subtle forms of victimisations such as trolling or cyberbullying on social media for instance or issues around protection of identity and reputation.

As already indicated in the content warning in the introduction, you can download a comprehensive guide on cybercrime and online safety developed by West Yorkshire police [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in order to get tips about how to increase your online safety. Alternatively, the NSPCC has developed a range of resources regarding child safety online. More guidance about online safety regarding specific online activities will be provided towards the end of the course.

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