The other approach to defining cybercrime is to develop a classification scheme that links offences with similar characteristics into appropriate groups similar to the traditional crime classifications. Several schemes have been developed over the years. There are suggestions that there are only two general categories: active and passive computer crimes. An active crime is when someone uses a computer to commit the crime, for example, when a person obtains access to a secured computer environment or telecommunications device without authorization (hacking). A passive computer crime occurs when someone uses a computer to both support and advance an illegal activity. An example is when a narcotics suspect uses a computer to track drug shipments and profits.
Literature has widely categorizes four general types of cybercrime by the computer’s relationship to the crime:
- Computer as the Target: theft of intellectual property, theft of marketing information (e.g., customer list, pricing data, or marketing plan), and blackmail based on information gained from computerized files (e.g., medical information, personal history, or sexual preference).
- Computer as the Instrumentality of the Crime: fraudulent use of automated teller machine (ATM) cards and accounts, theft of money from accrual, conversion, or transfer accounts, credit card fraud, fraud from computer transaction (stock transfer, sales, or billing), and telecommunications fraud.
- Computer Is Incidental to Other Crimes: money laundering and unlawful banking transactions, organized crime records or books, and bookmaking.
- Crime Associated with the Prevalence of Computers: software piracy/counterfeiting, copyright violation of computer programs, counterfeit equipment, black market computer equipment and programs, and theft of technological equipment.
Yar (2006), who has subdivided cybercrime into four areas of harmful activity, illustrates a range of activities and behaviors rather than focusing on specific offences. This reflects not only the various bodies of law, but also specific courses of public debate. The four categories are as follows:
Cyber-trespass: the crossing of cyber boundaries into other people’s computer systems into spaces where rights of ownership or title have already been established and causing damage, e.g., hacking and virus distribution.
Cyber-deceptions and thefts: the different types of acquisitive harm that can take place within cyberspace. At one level lie the more traditional patterns of theft, such as the fraudulent use of credit cards and (cyber) cash, but there is also a particular current concern regarding the increasing potential for the raiding of online bank accounts as e-banking become more popular.
Cyber-pornography: the breaching of laws on obscenity and decency.
Cyber-violence: the violent impact of the cyber activities of others upon individual, social or political grouping. Whilst such activities do not have to have a direct manifestation, the victim nevertheless feels the violence of the act and can bear long-term psychological scars as a consequence. The activities referred here range from cyber-stalking and hate-speech, to tech-talk.
In addition to the above, Yar (2006) has added a new type of activity which is “crime against the state,” describing it as encompassing those activities that breach laws which protect the integrity of the nation’s infrastructure, like terrorism, espionage and disclosure of official secrets.