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Cyber Enabled Crime vs. Cyber Dependent Crime

A few days ago I came across an article published in the August issue of a Dublin, Ireland, magazine called EOLAS. The article is titled, “Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau: “Most crime has a digital footprint”

The article profiles the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) and its commander, Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary, and reviews the difference between cyber-enabled and cyber dependent crime.

Here are a few excerpts:

Cyber-enabled crime is traditional crime, such as theft, harassment, child exploitation or fraud, that can be committed without a computer but are enabled by a computer in certain circumstances.

Cyber-dependent crime includes hacking, ransomware, DDoS attacks and malware. As such, the GNCCB head affirms:

‘Today, most crime has a digital footprint, whether in the commission of the crime, the preparation beforehand or in the cover up afterwards.’”

In September 2019, the UK Crown Prosecution Service published a more detailed explanation of Cyber Enabled Crime and Cyber Dependent Crime as follows:

Cyber-Enabled Crimes

These are crimes which do not depend on computers or networks but have been transformed in scale or form by the use of the internet and communications technology. They fall into the following categories:

  • Economic related cybercrime, including:
    • Fraud
    • Intellectual property crime – piracy, counterfeiting and forgery
  • Online marketplaces for illegal items
  • Malicious and offensive communications, including:
  • Communications sent via social media
  • Cyber bullying/trolling
  • Virtual mobbing
  • Offences that specifically target individuals, including cyber-enabled violence against women and girls (‘VAWG’):
    • Disclosing private sexual images without consent
    • Cyber stalking and harassment
    • Coercion and control
  • Child sexual offences and indecent images of children, including:
    • Child sexual abuse
    • Online grooming
    • Prohibited and indecent images of children
  • Extreme pornography, obscene publications and prohibited images

Cyber-Dependent Crimes

Cyber-dependent crimes fall broadly into two main categories:

  • Illicit intrusions into computer networks, such as hacking; and
  • the disruption or downgrading of computer functionality and network space, such as malware and Denial of Service (DOS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.

Cyber-dependent crimes are committed for many different reasons by individuals, groups and even sovereign states. For example:

  • Highly skilled individuals or groups who can code and disseminate software to attack computer networks and systems, either to commit crime or facilitate others to do so;
  • Individuals or groups with high skill levels but low criminal intent, for example protest hacktivists;
  • Individuals or groups with low skill levels but the ability to use cyber tools developed by others;
  • Organised criminal groups;
  • Cyber-terrorists who intend to cause maximum disruption and impact;
  • Other states and state sponsored groups launching cyber-attacks with the aim of collecting information on or compromising UK government, defence, economic and industrial assets; and
  • Insiders or employees with privileged access to computers and networks.

The majority of cyber criminals have relatively low skills levels, but their attacks are increasingly enabled by the growing online criminal marketplace, which provides easy access to sophisticated and bespoke tools and expertise, allowing these less skilled cybercriminals to exploit a wide range of vulnerabilities.


I find these distinctions useful to keep in mind.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

1 comment on “Cyber Enabled Crime vs. Cyber Dependent Crime

  1. Pingback: Cyber-Enabled Crimes vs. Cyber-Dependent Crimes - Internet Safety Statistics

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