Cyber crimes: understanding them and identifying their types

Digital or cyber crimes evolve exponentially with the increasing digitization across all sectors of society.  As the use of various...
18 January 2024

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Cyber crimes: understanding them and identifying their types

Digital or cyber crimes evolve exponentially with the increasing digitization across all sectors of society. 

As the use of various computer systems expands, the likelihood of individuals, businesses, and institutions falling victim to cybercriminals also increases.

To prevent, mitigate, and counteract the surge of digital criminal activity, it is essential to understand what cyber crimes are, their nature, and the various types they encompass.

What are cyber crimes?

Cyber crimes refer to illegal activities carried out using computer systems and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), resulting in various outcomes such as identity theft, the spread of malicious programs, online fraud, harassment, and more. 

These crimes extend beyond internet browsing, occurring through any digital device, application, or platform.

In this context, anyone, whether an individual, entity, government, institution, or organization, can become a victim of these criminal acts. 

As digitization pervades society, cyber attackers multiply exponentially, and cyber attacks become more precise and challenging to detect.

Cyber crimes: understanding them and identifying their types

What drives cyber criminals?

Various motivations drive cyber criminals, and their activities can range from financially motivated crimes to ideological or political agendas. Here are some common drivers behind cyber criminal activities:

Financial gain

Many cyber criminals are motivated by the prospect of financial rewards. This can involve stealing personal information, credit card details, or login credentials to access bank accounts or commit identity theft.

Some criminals engage in ransomware attacks, where they encrypt a victim’s data and demand payment in exchange for its release.


Some individuals or groups engage in cyber attacks for ideological, political, or social reasons. They might target organizations or governments to promote a particular agenda, protest against perceived injustices, or support a cause.


Nation-states and state-sponsored actors may engage in cyber espionage to gain a strategic advantage, access sensitive information, or monitor the activities of other nations.

Competitive advantage

Businesses and individuals might resort to cyber attacks to gain a competitive edge. This could involve stealing rivals’ intellectual property, trade secrets, or proprietary information.


Some individuals engage in hacking and cyber attacks for the sheer thrill and challenge. These individuals may not have a specific agenda or goal but are motivated by the excitement of bypassing security measures.

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Cyber criminals may seek to disrupt services or systems for various reasons, such as revenge, political motivations, or simply to cause chaos. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are a common method for achieving this.


Cyber criminals may extort by threatening to release sensitive information, disrupt services, or damage a target’s reputation unless a ransom is paid.

Social engineering

Manipulating individuals through deception is a common tactic. Phishing attacks, for example, rely on tricking people into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links.

Opportunistic attacks

Some cyber criminals take advantage of vulnerabilities without a specific target in mind. They exploit widespread vulnerabilities in software or networks to compromise as many systems as possible.

Understanding these motivations is crucial for developing effective cybersecurity strategies

Organizations and individuals need to implement robust security measures, stay informed about emerging threats, and be vigilant in order to protect against cyber attacks.

Most common examples of cyber crimes

As internet and ICT usage proliferates in the population, cyber crimes have become more specialized, impacting individuals in their professional, educational, and personal environments.

In the following sections, we will share a list of the most common cyber crimes. 

Before delving into them, keep in mind that criminals can use any means to attack, such as websites, mobile applications, emails, text messages, or instant messaging apps.

Actions against confidentiality, integrity, and data availability

These actions violate people’s privacy online. Cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to computer systems or intercept data to destroy or damage intellectual property or steal personal and financial information.

Let’s take a look at the following examples:

  • Phishing: Attempting to gain victims’ trust by impersonating recognized brands, companies, or banks for fraudulent purposes.
  • Carding: Criminals steal a person’s card data through means like phishing and use it fraudulently.
  • Ransomware: Attackers block or encrypt access to digital information, demanding a ransom to restore access.
  • DDoS Attack: Exploiting digital security vulnerabilities, cybercriminals block access to a website or network resource until their demands are met, damaging the brand’s online reputation.
Most common examples of cyber crimes

Harassment, intimidation, or damage to reputation

These actions are personalized and focused on an individual, involving harassment, intimidation, or attempts to humiliate or damage their reputation. 

This includes cyberharassment, which can be carried out by adults targeting a specific victim or minors harassing peers (this is known as cyberbullying).

Spread of violent and pornographic content

Regarding the dissemination of violent or pornographic content, it can promote hatred or discrimination against an individual or group. 

Illegitimate dissemination of third-party content carries responsibilities in data protection, civil liability for damages, and criminal liability for normative data protection violations.

Cyber crimes refer to illegal activities carried out using computers

Reporting cyber crimes

If you are a victim or witness of cyber crimes, you can contact the European Cybercrime Centre through a designated form. You can also visit the nearest police station for guidance and support, as these crimes are often challenging to prove.

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