Computer and cyber crimes generally fall into two categories. The first is when a network or a computer is the target of the illegal activity. As industry and the government are increasingly networked and automated, opportunities for illicit gain for individuals with the right skill set present themselves ever more frequently. The second category is when the alleged criminal activity is set in motion and facilitated by a computer. This can include any criminal activity that is accomplished by means of a computer, including simple fraud; production of false identification; reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material; distribution, collection and production of child pornography; and other types of crimes.
Because of the sophistication and quick development of technology, evidence of the criminal activity is handled in a different way than in the past. The FBI often requires computer forensic examination of electronic devices and computer generated data. Criminal activity where networks or computers are targeted usually harm the victimized network or computer, whether in the form of financial loss, compromised data, or physical damage. Moreover, the targeted networks can be used to initiate attacks on other networks.
The FBI uses a number of federal statutes to investigate computer crimes. The Government usually starts the investigation and prosecution of these crimes by obtaining a search and seizure warrant from a local federal magistrate judge. Upon seizure of the suspect electronic equipment, federal agents will typically attempt to gain incriminating statements from anyone present at the scene of the search warrant. Because many victims must maintain the public’s trust in the fidelity of their automated systems, the FBI is sensitive to the victim’s concerns about public exposure and will typically try to maintain a low profile in the early stages of these types of cases.
Any decision to investigate is jointly made between the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office in order to balance the need for criminal charges and the victim’s needs into account.
The following are the statutes commonly used by the FBI in investigating and prosecuting computer/cyber crimes:
18 U.S.C. 875 Interstate Communications: Including Threats, Kidnapping, Ransom, Extortion.
18 U.S.C. 1029 Possession of Access Devices
18 U.S.C. 1030 Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
18 U.S.C. 1343 Fraud by wire, radio or television
18 U.S.C. 1361 Injury to Government Property
18 U.S.C. 1362 Government communication systems
18 U.S.C. 1831 Economic Espionage Act
18 U.S.C. 1832 Trade Secrets Act