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The psychology of cybercrime
The psychology of cybercrime

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2 Types of cybercrime

As you have probably identified from engaging in Activity 1, the internet offers a wide range of activities and opportunities for criminals to engage in anti-social and/or deviant behaviours. Therefore, the term cybercrime encompasses a variety of different activities, which goes beyond the fact that they are either a function of, or are facilitated by, the internet. Indeed, real-world crimes can be seen to achieve different goals; for example, theft for financial gain compared to murder for the purpose of revenge. In the same respect, criminal activities falling under the umbrella of cybercrime follow the same pattern. Usually, a distinction is made between:

  • i.instrumental crimes (i.e. crimes where the harm to the victim is not the ultimate aim) and
  • ii.expressive crimes (i.e. crimes are based on an offender’s emotional response to a situation that provokes anger, leading to a desire to cause harm to the victim) (Canter and Youngs, 2009; Youngs, Ioannou and Eagles, 2016).

Similarly in an online environment, some forms of crime seem to principally be for financial gain (e.g. ransomware attacks, online identity theft), whereas others may be carried out for personal reasons, such as revenge (e.g. cyberstalking) or for the purposes of furthering an offline crime (e.g. a paedophile grooming a child online). However, there are also offences/anti-social online behaviours such as ‘hacking’ and ‘trolling’, which may be carried out for a variety of other reasons.

Activity 2 Classifying the different types of cybercrime

Timing: Allow 20 minutes

Many categorisations of cybercrime distinguish between crimes against the person/morality and crimes again property/government. Use your common knowledge to decide whether this falls under crimes against the person or crime against the property or both. Put some text into the boxes you think are the right option.

Table 1 Classifying the different types of cybercrime
  Crime against the person Crime against the property Both
Malware
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Trojan
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Virus
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Worm
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Ransomware
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Phishing
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Online financial crimes
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Online Fraud
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Password cracking
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Hacking
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Photo-hacking
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Sextortion
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Image-based sexual crimes
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Revenge Pornography
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Cyberstalking
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Trolling
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Cyberbullying
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Discussion

Under that assumption, cyberbullying, trolling and cyberstalking, revenge pornography, image-based sexual crimes, sextortion, photo-hacking, hacking are likely to fall under the crime against the person category. Malware (including trojan, virus, worm), online financial crimes (including online fraud and password cracking) are more likely to fall under the crimes against the property category. However, you have probably realised that for many crimes it is not as clear cut and could be both directed at the person and the property (even if one is a by-product of obtaining the desired object or status) such as image-based sexual crimes who at face value could be seen as a crime against property (i.e. stealing an image) but ultimately it is a crime against the person. Moreover, cybercriminals usually combine criminal behaviours such as cyberstalking, sextortion, revenge pornography and possibly cyberbullying, therefore people can easily be victim of two (or more) types of cybercrimes simultaneously. Now have a look at some of them in details in the next sections.