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Cybercrime refers to the theft of personal information, hacking into systems, and other digital activities that are not covered by existing criminal laws. Cybercriminals can be individuals with minimal technical skills, or highly organized global crime groups. The internet’s speed, convenience and lack of boundaries make it easy for criminals to conceal their actions. The nature of the Internet also means that crimes can be committed across jurisdictions, making them more difficult to prosecute and identify.

Examples of cybercrime include unauthorized access and misuse of computer systems, denial-of-service attacks, hacking, cyber extortion, and copyright infringement. The latter involves the illegal acquisition, possession, modification and use of protected intellectual property, such as industrial design, patents and copyrights.

In the United States, the FBI investigates cyberattacks and the resulting criminal activity. The Cyber Division has a variety of teams dedicated to fighting cybercrime, including the Electronic Crimes Task Force and National Computer Forensics Institute. The FBI is a signatory to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, which prohibits a number of malicious activities such as interception of data, system interferences that compromise network integrity and availability, and violations of copyright.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime is to keep systems, computers and software current with the latest updates and patches. Regular backups of data and files can also reduce the damage that would be caused by a ransomware attack or a data breach. For those interested in careers related to cybersecurity, pursuing a degree or gaining professional experience in the fields of technology, information security, computer science or law enforcement can provide opportunities to learn more about cybercrime detection and prevention.