Internet Crimes: Definition and Penalties

An internet crime, or cybercrime, refers to any illegal practice that involves the use of a computer or network, or targets a computer or network. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, their key priorities in regards to cybercrimes are: computer intrusion, online predators, piracy, and fraud. Computer intrusion costs individuals and companies billions of dollars every year. By breaking into personal computers, laptops, and networks, hackers can disrupt and sometimes permanently damage vital computer systems. The reasons for computer intrusion vary from the theft of personal information to illegal business practices to terrorism.

Child pornography and online predators are another important focus of the FBI. The Innocent Images National Initiative is part of their Cyber Crimes Program and is dedicated to fighting the spread of child pornography online. It is against federal and state laws to make, own, sell, or distribute any pornographic materials that contain minors. Although each state is different, even the possession of one picture can lead to five years in prison. As one of the fastest growing crimes on the internet, it can be used for a number of purposes. Pedophiles view it, but others use it to prepare children for child prostitution, an act known as child grooming. 18 U.S.C. Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children, states that violators can be punished by fifteen years in federal prison.

A crime that has garnered a mass amount of media attention is that of piracy: intellectual property theft. Intellectual property includes: music, books, movies, art, inventions, phrases, designs, and more. Materials that are protected by copyright or trademarks are illegal to copy or distribute without permission. Penalties for piracy vary based on the amount copies or distributed. The FBI has been working on educating the public regarding the seriousness of this crime and the fact that it is theft.

Lastly, another widespread internet crime is fraud. Fraud is a broad category of crimes that involve dishonest acts. When misrepresentation occurs on the internet, it becomes a cybercrime. The most common reason for fraud is monetary gain and can be civil or criminal in nature, depending on the law of the state. The main types of fraud are: identity theft, credit card fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and securities fraud.

If you have been accused of any type of internet crime, it is highly encouraged that you speak with a legal professional as soon as possible. As these crimes can be investigated by government agencies, you need a strong legal representative to be on your side. Time is crucial, so do not wait to get the help you need.

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