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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Defining Cybercrime
  • Substantive Cybercrime Laws
  • Procedural Cybercrime Laws
  • International and Regional Treaties on Cybercrime
  • Deterrence in Cyberspace
  • Legal Responsibility for Investigating Cybercrime Incidents
  • Digital Evidence and Digital Forensics
  • Cybercrime Investigative Methods
  • Private Third Parties and the Investigation of Cybercrime
  • Challenges to Cybercrime Investigations and Evidence Discovery
  • Prosecuting and Defending Cybercrime Cases
  • Legal Challenges to Electronic Evidence
  • Patterns and Trends in Cybercrime Prosecutions

Criminology Cybercrime Investigations and Prosecutions
David Maimon, Donald E. Hunt
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0276


Official crime statistics from around the globe suggest that violent and property crime rates have steadily decreased since the early 1990s. At the same time, it seems that the volume of cybercrime incidents against individuals and organizations, both public and private, has dramatically increased according to the FBI in 2018. In an effort to mitigate online users’ potential victimization to cybercrime, government, private, and public organizations have embraced a wide range of policies aimed at regulating users’ behaviors in cyberspace. Simultaneously, to deter offenders from initiating online crimes, government authorities and law enforcement agencies revised existing criminal laws and enacted specific cybercrime laws. These new laws clearly define online users’ illegitimate behaviors with computers and computer networks, the potential penalties for initiating such behaviors, and the legal procedures that govern official investigations and prosecutions of online crimes. Still, due to the unique nature of cybercrime, investigating cybercrime incidents and prosecuting cybercriminals pose significant challenges to law enforcement agencies. Those challenges manifest themselves in new types of investigation practices, types of evidence, and legal responsibilities, and require law enforcement agencies to adapt better to the online dimension of crime. This reference list provides a guide to the key themes and sources within the topic of cybercrime investigations and prosecutions, which are performed under the realm of criminal procedural law.

General Overviews

Brown 2015 provides a summary of criminal justice investigatory efforts and prosecution-related responses to cybercrime incidents, which are launched in countries that follow the common law model. Grabosky 2016 summarizes key issues encountered by cybercrime investigators and prosecutors when dealing with cybercrime cases, as well as discussing the details of several known operations and court cases led by US legal authorities since the 1980s. Downing 2004 provides an overview of substantive and procedural cybercrime laws in several countries around the world. Orton 2011 presents a comprehensive review of investigative and prosecution approaches employed by law enforcement agencies in the United States to respond to system trespassing, data destruction, and cyber-harassment cases. The 2018 Internet Crime Report (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2018) is the latest annual cybercrime report by the FBI. Finally, Malby, et al. 2013 presents an overview of investigative and procedural issues reported by sixty-nine member states in the United Nations in dealing with cybercrime cases.

  • Brown, C. 2015. Investigating and prosecuting cyber crime: Forensic dependencies and barriers to justice. International Journal of Cyber Criminology 9.1: 55–119.

    An overview paper that aims to introduce readers to technical, legal, and enforcement-related activities and challenges faced by law enforcement while investigating and prosecuting cybercrime cases.

  • Downing, R. W. 2004. Shoring up the weakest link: What lawmakers around the world need to consider in developing comprehensive laws to combat cybercrime. Columbia Journal of Transitional Law 43.3: 705–762.

    A review of key substantive and procedural laws enacted by several countries to deter and punish attacks on computer networks and online information, along with a list of necessary components for increasing the effectiveness of these laws.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2018. 2018 Internet crime report.

    These annual reports by the FBI offer a look into the various cybercrimes reported to the FBI over time.

  • Grabosky, P. 2016. Cybercrime. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This book provides an introductory overview of cybercrime and the legal efforts dedicated to its control.

  • Malby, S., R. Mace, A. Holterhof, C. Brown, S. Kascherus, and E. Ignatuschtschenko. 2013. Comprehensive study on cybercrime. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

    A report prepared by the United Nations to capture the magnitude of cybercrime around the world and understand different countries’ legal responses to these crimes.

  • Orton, I. 2011. The investigation and prosecution of a cybercrime. In Cybercrime: The investigation, prosecution and defense of a computer-related crime. Edited by Ralph D. Clifford, 105–200. 3d ed. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

    A chapter reviewing the practical issues associated with investigating and prosecuting different types of cybercrime (hacking, data destruction, and cyber harassment).

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