Charges of committing a computer crime can produce drastic consequences in the life of a person. Depending on the severity of the charge, someone may go to prison for a long time and have to pay large amounts in fines. Because computers are an essential part of everyday life, understanding the different kinds of computer crimes is important for just about anyone. 

Both state and federal laws define various computer crimes. Since people may commit crimes across state lines with a computer, federal authorities sometimes get involved. FindLaw provides descriptions of some of the common types of computer crimes. 

Crimes specifically involving computers

Many computer crimes directly involve a person manipulating or damaging a computer. These crimes can include any of the following: 

  • Denying a person access to a computer or a network 
  • Unleashing a virus or other invasive program into a computer 
  • Creating false email source information 
  • Stealing data or programs 
  • Improper disclosure of programs or other computer information 

Committing these crimes may damage an innocent party in any number of ways. Some of these crimes happen for the purpose of stealing business information for personal enrichment. In some other cases, perpetrators do it just for fun or malice without caring about the ramifications of their actions. 

Crimes utilizing a computer

Some computer crimes are the same as other crimes. The only difference is perpetrators use a computer as the means to commit a crime, like kidnapping, human trafficking, and drug trafficking. In addition, white collar crimes such as embezzlement or money laundering may occur through the use of a computer. A perpetrator may utilize a computer to move money or communicate with other schemers to engage in the criminal act. 

People can also use computers for smaller scale uses of fraud. Sometimes computer criminals trick computer users into revealing their personal information which criminals use to steal money. As the FBI explains, computer criminals can find and use information like Social Security numbers, computer account passwords, passport numbers, and financial account numbers to engage in identity theft.