In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cybercrime

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Debate over the Nature of Cyberspace and Criminality
  • Computer Hacking
  • Digital Piracy
  • Fraud and Identity Theft
  • Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Stalking
  • Prostitution and Sexual Deviance
  • Child Pornography and Predation
  • Cyberterrorism and Information Warfare
  • Theories of Cybercrime
  • Policing, Law, and Cybercrime

Criminology Cybercrime
Thomas Holt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0025


There is no standard unit of analysis, and multiple terms are used to describe offenses often classified as cybercrime. In fact the terms “cybercrime” and “computer crime” have become nearly synonymous, although there is a difference between these two events. Cybercrimes typically are those in which special knowledge of cyberspace is used to commit a crime, whereas computer crimes are those in which the perpetrator uses computer technology to offend (Wall 2001, see General Overviews). Despite these differences, the term “cybercrime” will be used here to refer to the wide range of deviant and criminal behaviors that are facilitated in part by computer technology. Wall 2001 (see General Overviews) provides one of the most comprehensive and recognized typologies of cybercrime, which includes four categories of offending. The first category is cybertrespass, encompassing the crossing of invisible yet salient boundaries of ownership online, primarily by computer hackers. The second and related category is cyberdeception and theft. This form of computer crime includes all the various criminal acquisitions that may occur online, including digital piracy, fraud, and identity theft. The third category includes cyberporn and obscenity. This category recognizes deviant but not necessarily illegal content, such as traditional pornography, along with sexual services and child predation. The final category of crime within Wall’s typology is cyberviolence, representing the distribution of a variety of injurious, hurtful, or dangerous materials online. This includes online harassment and stalking as well as more serious acts of terror.

General Overviews

There are a number of general texts on cybercrime, though their depth of content is variable. Yar 2006 summarizes and approaches the issue of cybercrime from a theoretical perspective, while Britz 2009, McQuade 2006, and Taylor, et al. 2006 explore all manner of cybercrimes, the legal response, and available data sources. These sources can be used as standalone texts on cybercrime for graduate and undergraduate courses in survey courses in criminology or as the anchor text in more specialized courses in cybercrime. Wall 2001 provides an excellent exploration of theoretical and topical issues and remains an important source for both established and new researchers. Schmalleger and Pittaro 2009 touches on a range of issues in the study of cybercrime, from offending to victimization, law enforcement, and legal issues. Furnell 2002 explores cybercrime in an international context, with particular emphasis on computer hacking.

  • Britz, Marjie T. 2009. Computer forensics and cybercrime: An introduction. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Broad and accessible overview of major forms of cybercrime and forensic examination issues. Suitable for undergraduates and graduate students.

  • Furnell, Steven. 2002. Cybercrime: Vandalizing the information society. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

    Comprehensive exploration of the emergence of cybercrime and legislative issues in the modern world, with particular emphasis on computer hacking in an international context. Suitable for undergraduates and graduate students.

  • McQuade, Samuel C., III. 2006. Understanding and managing cybercrime. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Extensive examination of cybercrimes, theory, and law enforcement responses to cybercrime with some original research presented. Suitable for all levels of study.

  • Schmalleger, Frank, and Michael Pittaro, eds. 2009. Crimes of the Internet. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

    Comprehensive edited volume with significant detail on a variety of cybercrimes. Includes literature reviews and original research and is appropriate for all levels of study. This book would also make an excellent reader for a cybercrime or deviance class.

  • Taylor, Robert W., Tory J. Caeti, D. Kall Loper, Eric J. Fritsch, and John Liederbach. 2006. Digital crime and digital terrorism. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

    Broad and accessible overview of major forms of cybercrime, criminological theory, and legal and law enforcement issues. Suitable for undergraduates and graduate students.

  • Wall, David S., ed. 2001. Crime and the Internet. New York: Routledge.

    Broad-ranging and foundational edited volume with detailed discussion on a variety of cybercrimes and legal responses.

  • Yar, Majid. Cybercrime and society. 2006. London: Sage.

    Broad coverage of the social and legal responses to a variety of cybercrimes and online deviance.

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