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Cybercrime is the use of computers to commit illegal activities like fraud, trafficking in child pornography, piracy, money laundering and identity theft. Cybercriminals can be individuals, small groups or large organized crime syndicates. Unlike traditional criminals who must dig through garbage cans or intercept mail to steal personal information, cybercriminals have access to data from around the world in seconds.

In addition, cybercriminals can easily exchange stolen information and tools on online marketplaces. These virtual markets often have escrow functions, similar to a mafia protection system that holds payment (and sometimes the goods) until everything checks out. There are also arbitration services, allowing a senior member of the community to listen to both sides of a dispute and make a ruling. This helps enhance cooperation, as criminals spend less time trying to find out whether other members will honor their deals.

While individual criminals use the Internet to commit crimes, larger organized groups of criminals are now forming global criminal communities that treat cyber crime as a business. The goal is to maximize the profit and minimize the risk associated with specific crimes. At the other end of the spectrum are individuals who hack into the computer systems of multinational corporations or government bureaucracies to expose information or cause disruptions. These hackers are known as “hacktivists.”

The criminal justice system has various agencies responsible for enforcing the laws that prohibit cyber crimes. These agencies include law enforcement, the judiciary and corrections.