Computer Crime Research Center

Cybercrime definition

Date: June 28, 2006
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Aghatise E. Joseph

Crime and criminality have been associated with man since his fall. Crime remains elusive and ever strives to hide itself in the face of development. Different nations have adopted different strategies to contend with crime depending on their nature and extent. One thing is certain, it is that a nation with high incidence of crime cannot grow or develop. That is so because crime is the direct opposite of development. It leaves a negative social and economic consequence.

Cybercrime is defined as crimes committed on the internet using the computer as either a tool or a targeted victim. It is very difficult to classify crimes in general into distinct groups as many crimes evolve on a daily basis. Even in the real world, crimes like rape, murder or theft need not necessarily be separate. However, all cybercrimes involve both the computer and the person behind it as victims, it just depends on which of the two is the main target.
Hence, the computer will be looked at as either a target or tool for simplicity’s sake. For example, hacking involves attacking the computer’s information and other resources. It is important to take note that overlapping occurs in many cases and it is impossible to have a perfect classification system.

• Computer as a tool

When the individual is the main target of Cybercrime, the computer can be considered as the tool rather than the target. These crimes generally involve less technical expertise as the damage done manifests itself in the real world. Human weaknesses are generally exploited. The damage dealt is largely psychological and intangible, making legal action against the variants more difficult. These are the crimes which have existed for centuries in the offline. Scams, theft, and the likes have existed even before the development in high-tech equipment. The same criminal has simply been given a tool which increases his potential pool of victims and makes him all the harder to trace and apprehend.

• Computer as a target
These crimes are committed by a selected group of criminals. Unlike crimes using he computer as a tool, these crimes requires the technical knowledge of the perpetrators. These crimes are relatively new, having been in existence for only as long as computers have - which explains how unprepared society and the world in general is towards combating these crimes. There are numerous crimes of this nature committed daily on the internet. But it is worth knowing that Africans and indeed Nigerians are yet to develop their technical knowledge to accommodate and perpetrate this kind of crime.


There are so many varieties of crimes that are committed on the internet daily, some are directed to the computer while others are directed to the computer users. In this study, I have identified some common crimes committed daily in Nigerian networks.

Spamming is the act of sending unsolicited messages to many users at a time, possibly up to thousands, with the usual intention of advertising products to potential customers. Spamming can also be used as a form of irritation by singling out an email address and sending the owner of that address hundreds of emails per second. Spamming is usually random and untargeted but it can be targeted to either a group of people, for example, advertisements that cater for a particular group of people, or certain persons, like in the case of spamming for the purpose of irritating the public.
Contrary to popular belief, spamming has existed in Nigeria even before the advent of the Internet. During the period I spent working as a casual security staff with the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST), we (mail security staff) were asked to make sure that letters sent by some individuals be destroyed upon investigation. I was curios and decided to open one of the letters one day and see what the content really was; you can guess what the content of the letter was! Junk mail to postal addresses and annoying door-to-door salesmen are some examples of the more traditional form of spam. However, the Internet has given spam a much uglier face. Now, what used to be a minor irritation has become a veritable menace. The internet has enabled young Nigerians to become active cyber criminals. They queue up in cyber cafes to send “419 mails.” (Nigerian word for fraudulent businesses online).

Spammers are classified into two major faces;
a. Hucksters
The hucksters are characterized by a slow turnaround from harvest to first message (typically at least 1 month), a large number of message being sent to each harvested spamtrapped addresses, and typical product based spam (i.e spam selling an actual product to be shipped or downloaded even if the product itself is fraudulent).
b. Fraudsters

The fraudsters are characterized by an almost immediate turnaround from harvest to first message (typically less than 12 hours), only a small number of messages sent to each harvested addresses, and fraud based (e.g phishing, “advanced fee fraud”-419 from the Nigerian perspective). Fraudsters often harvest addresses and send only a message to them all at a particular time. In this process, they use e-mail addresses harvesting software like: advanced e-mail extractor pro, extreme e-mail extractor. Since most of the available email clients support emails separator with the comma (,), another software is introduced in the process. This software allows the criminals to separate their harvested email addresses with the comma character. A good software for this purpose is the e-mail extractor lite1.4.

Piracy involves the illegal reproduction and distribution of software applications, games, movies and audio CDs. (Longe, 2004).
This can be done in a number of ways. Usually pirates buy an original version of a software, movie or game and illegally make copies of the software available online for others to download and use without the notification of the original owner of the software. This is known as Internet piracy or warez.

The term “warez” describes commercial software, movies and games that has been modified by a cracker and made freely available to the public on the Internet. The word came from the word “wares” but, as with “phishing”, the hacker/cracker community altered the original word just enough to claim it as its own.
Modern day piracy may be less dramatic or exciting but is far subtler and more extensive in terms of the monetary losses the victim faces. This particular form of cybercrime may be the hardest of all to curb as the common man also seems to be benefiting from the crime. A typical Africa person would stop at nothing to download “free software, musicals, movie” or related items. The reason is that, the taxation system in most African countries is ineffective and people grow up to believe paying tax and other bills are a way the government use to oppress the poor citizens.

Victimology is a very important branch of criminal psychology. It is as important, if not more, to know whom the criminal is likely to target. Preemptive action can only be taken by the law if they know who is likely to commit crime as well as who is likely to be targeted. All criminals – at least the intelligent ones – will only attack those who exhibit certain vulnerabilities. Just as a robber will never think of robbing someone who is armed, so are cybercriminals careful about the personalities of those they choose to prey on.
I have identified four levels of cybercrime victims. They are;
1. Gullible
2. Desperados
3. Inexperienced
4. Unlucky people

1. The Gullible
There is no doubt that cybercriminals are most fond of people who are easy to deceive. During the period of this research, I interviewed some cyber criminals in four cyber cafes in Nigeria and what I was told was this “yahoo-yahoo business is all about deceipt, if you are gullible, then you become my mahi..” On a more obvious level, phishers are best able to fool such people into buying their scams or being drawn into legal traps. Spammers send multiple e-mail messages to harvested email addresses and the gullible fall prey to the contents of the email. Usually older people are prone to being scammed as they are more trusting and helpful towards others.
On a more dangerous level, however, many especially children believe that the people they meet on the net are as friendly and worthy of trust as real people. Almost all victims of cyberstalkers are prone to trusting people and making friends easily.

2. Desperados and greedy people
Many internet users are desperate for easy ways to make cash. Hence, they easily fall for emails that say things like “Get rich fast!”, “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR LOTTO WINNING” and all of those stuffs. Come to think of it if you did not take part in any lottery program, how come someone is telling you congratulations for winning? Greedy and desperate people will always fall to this level of scam and follow the instructions in the emails which most others are likely to treat as junk. They are almost definitely being led to legal and financial entanglements out of which only the perpetrator will make profits. There are others who are attracted to advertisements related to improving one’s physical image. Ridiculous products...
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2009-06-30 19:15:36 - please make internet sales companies... bertha
2008-07-05 10:42:36 - asdfa asdf fasd ss ade asdf fadf fawe fa... asdf
2007-02-12 00:57:20 - jwmpvb shmaykcte rswt kwaldemno kjxyiow... qlfukys ceiod
2007-02-12 00:57:02 - ziferugnc ewnpvbl hstq pwmtdrl ajsm... xrdfvomja jqxupsyw
2007-02-12 00:56:56 - jwmpvb shmaykcte rswt kwaldemno kjxyiow... qlfukys ceiod
2007-02-12 00:56:03 - avyidswq kbcfnx amsicdj texphc fwuxqdmy... dlhfbvj cvtdygps
2006-09-28 13:14:40 - One would ask "why do people go into scam... Aghatise Joseph
2006-06-29 20:45:36 - I would like to add that cybercrime... Mohamed Chawki
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