What is cyber crime

Stephen Halloran headshot

Stephen Halloran

Managing Partner

Cyber Crime

In the context of criminal law, cyber crime refers to offences relating to a computer or other form of information communication device (it is a deliberately wide ranging definition due to technological advances).

The majority of offences are prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, with later amendments under the Police and Justice Act 2006 and the Serious Crime Act 2007. Other statutes can also be used to cover offences committed that have as their origin the use/misuse of a computer.

Types of Cyber Crime

The following terms relate to the most common types of offences being committed that fall under the umbrella term cyber crime, many of them are inter-linked and one offence could be used as a precursor to other offences.

  • Hacking – involves gaining access to a computer or network (without permission) with the intent to gain access to information
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks – commonly called DDoS attacks or booting, this involves preventing, interrupting or suspending access to the internet or a specific website. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as sending a lot of traffic to a particular website (such as an online gaming site or user of it). This type of offence can start out as a prank or a means of securing an advantage in an online game – but it is a criminal offence.
  • Phishing – this involves the sending out of a large number of bogus emails purporting to be from a legitimate company or individual with a view to gaining personal information or security details.
  • Malware – this is malicious software that can be obtained, made or supplied with a view to it be used to gain access to computers/networks. The malicious software is more commonly known by the terms viruses, spyware, botnets and Trojans.
  • Identity theft – this is involves using fraudulent details of another person for a criminal purposes – such as applying for loans, buying goods or services (to include apps).
  • Unauthorised access – this is commonly not having any access or exceeding the extent of access permitted and using or destroying the information gained as a result.


Due to the global nature of the internet, offences of this kind can attract attention from other jurisdictions (this is the legal phrase for the criminal justice system of another country). This can have consequences and result in the other country seeking extradition and any offending being punished in that country.

Sentences under the Computer Misuse Act can vary from a warning/caution to a maximum of 10 years in prison for serious offences. Additional punishments can include the prevention (or very strict monitoring) of the internet and the repayment of significant sums of money under the Proceeds of Crime Act).

In addition to offences under the Computer Misuse Act, other criminality could be charged. Again the penalties vary widely and are fact specific.

If you need help with a computer misuse case?

The wide range of offences that can be committed under the umbrella term cyber crime is significant. It is a specialist area of mainstream criminal law and requires a level of knowledge that not all solicitors may have.

We have experience in dealing with these type of offences, ranging from alleged offences committed by disgruntled employees to significant DDoS type offences said to be linked to the Lizard Squad.

Due to the increasing prevalence of offences of this type the Police have a specialist national unit within the National Crime Agency and also a number of regional units that investigate this type of offending.

If you, a family member or friend need advice on allegations being investigated by these bodies we are able to assist. Please contact us on 0333 2020972 or email us the details so one of our specialist lawyers can assist. We are based in London & the Home Counties.

Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which Advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual and Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific Advice

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