In most homes today, there is at least one computer and often multiple computers and/or tablets or smartphones. Each and every day, thousands of people become the victim of cybercrime. In fact, since the mid-1990s, cybercrime has virtually exploded, leading to the need for enhanced methods for cybercrime investigation.
What Is Computer Crime?
While computer crime has become more pervasive in the last decade, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is. Essentially, computer crime is any illegal activity for which computer technology is vital for the perpetration of that activity.
Relationship with Criminal Law
Although there have been numerous federal and state statutes that have been developed over the years that apply to traditional criminal offenses, most such statutes were not sufficient in regards to computer crime. As a result, the federal government as well as most of the states have taken the step of adopting new laws that apply specifically to computer-related crimes. Over the years, these laws have been redefined in order to remain up to date as new developments continue to arise in modern technology.
Rules of Evidence
A comprehensive understanding of the rules of evidence is vital in investigating cybercrimes. It should be understood that evidence in a computer crime case might often differ from traditional types of evidence due to the fact that computer crime-related evidence is often intangible in nature.
Types of Evidence
Various types of evidence may be presented in court, including real, direct, demonstrative, and documentary. Direct evidence involves oral testimony, which is typically called upon to prove specific facts. Real evidence, which may include physical evidence, is comprised of tangible items and might include tools used in the relevant crime. This type of evidence is primarily used for the purposes of linking the suspect to the crime scene.
Best Evidence of Rule
In investigating cybercrimes, it is also important to understand what is known as the Best Evidence Rule, which underscores the preference of the court for the presentation of original evidence at trial rather than a copy. Duplicates may be presented, but only under circumstances in which the original evidence has been lost or destroyed.
In most instances, hearsay evidence, which is evidence that is not derived from the personal knowledge of the witness, is not admissible in court. With that said, there are some exceptions that apply to the hearsay rule in regards to business records, such as allowing a disk or memory dump to be admitted in court as evidence. While this is not conducted in the regular course of business, such a memory dump would serve as a statement of fact.
Punishment for Cyber Criminals
The severity of punishment for cybercrime varies from one country to another. In the United States, the severity of punishment for cybercrimes varies based on the type of cybercrime that has been committed. For instance, the punishment for hacking may range from paying a significant fine to up to 20 years in jail. By comparison, the minimum punishment for spamming is $11,000 but may also involve jail time. In recent years, the laws that cover identity theft have been strengthened, and convicted identity thieves can face up to five years in prison. In cases in which identity theft is used in order to commit acts of terrorism, the punishment can be even more severe.
As cybercrimes have increased in the last few years, many countries have worked to make the punishments for those crimes even more severe. Even so, many governments still require assistance in locating cyber criminals.