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As new technologies emerge, criminals take advantage of them to commit crimes. Cybercrime is the label we put on any type of crime that occurs online, involving computer systems, devices and networks. While there are some unique aspects to cybercrime, it mostly represents an extension of traditional criminal activity alongside some novel illegal activities.

Cyber attacks can be devastating and disrupting to businesses, costing the UK economy millions of pounds each year. Criminals also share offensive, distressing and illegal content over the Internet that can cause serious harm, including child pornography, intellectual property theft, fraud and online stalking.

Hackers and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to gain access to computer systems with malicious intent. The decade of the 2000s saw some of the most significant communication innovations the world has ever seen, such as the World Wide Web and social media, but these breakthroughs spawned cybercrime, too. The Morris worm, for example, infected the computers of Cornell, Stanford and Johns Hopkins university researchers; a 15-year-old boy with a home PC launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against some of the world’s largest companies; and data breaches led to millions of dollars in lost revenue and damaged investor perception.

These days, it takes a relatively small group of hackers to do big damage, and they can operate from anywhere in the world. Cyber criminal communities share tools, ideas and strategies and they can exploit the global Internet to launch coordinated attacks. And, because laws vary across jurisdictions, it’s often difficult to catch and prosecute these bad actors.