The appearance of the Internet has meant a lot for the evolution of the world. Internet connection has helped people and governments connect, has led to the offering of efficient services, online payments and many more. However, not long after this evolution its bad side also has started to emerge and gave room to a new type of crime - the cybercrime.
Even for each type of cybercrime the IT specialists can find a solution and fix any direct problem related to it, there is also the moral side of the problem, and that is the punishment for those committing cybercrimes. From this point of view, the United Kingdom legal system has gone through major changes in order to adapt to the world of cybercrime and now it has one of the most performant legislations dedicated to this type of misconduct.
Types of cybercrimes in the UK
Before jumping into an analysis of UK’s solutions to cybercrimes, it would help knowing what and which these are. If there were a general classification of crimes, cybercrime enters the category of offences carried through any electronic means of communication. Most of them are committed through computers, mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Even if it may seem unbelievable, nowadays people can be victims of cybercrimes through smart TVs.
There are various cybercrimes one can be convicted for in the UK, and in order to know what the punishments are, it is necessary to see which these are. The most popular one is phishing because it is also the easiest to commit. Phishing implies obtaining personal information through scam emails. The second most spread one is virus dissemination through which computers and other devices are infected with malware with the same intention of obtaining confidential information or to cause malfunctions to operating system. During the last few years another type of virus dissemination cybercrime appeared or better said was invented: viruses which block computers with the purpose of obtaining money (predominantly digital money) in order to gain access to the information.
The next in line is hacking through which an unauthorized person accesses computer or other devices. Hacking usually happens at high level, meaning government and other state agencies, because the higher the level of hacking, the higher the reward.
The latest additions to cybercrimes classification are online scams and cyberbullying. If online scams are affecting people trying to purchase goods at suspiciously low prices, cyberbullying affects more and more children in the UK.
Economic cybercrimes are also more and more common in the UK with fraud, intellectual property theft, forgery and counterfeiting have earned notoriety in the past five years.
How does the UK handle cybercrimes?
Fortunately, for each problem there is a solution and, in the case of the United Kingdom, this is the National Cyber Crime Unit, simply known as the NCCU, which cooperates with the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit and governmental institutions to prevent these crimes from happening. The NCCU is in charge with investigating cybercrimes at national and international levels, which is what makes them valuable in UK’s response to cybercrimes.
The NCCU offers assistance from technical, intelligence and strategic points of view to the police tasks in charge with catching those who commit cybercrimes.
The UK legislation on computer crime
Until cyber crime became a phenomenon, the only law covering crimes committed through a computer was the Computer Misuse Act. This happened about 20 years ago. Now, the UK legislation pays much more attention to these dangerous practices and it is dealing with them by imposing stricter regulations and higher punishments. Under the Computer Misuse Law, the highest punishment is five years prison conviction.
Other laws which cover cybercrimes are actually amendments to the existing legislation. Among these are: the Police Justice Act and the Serious Crimes Act, the last one being implemented in 2015. The last law to cover cybercrimes in the UK is the Terrorism Act of 2000 which provides for offences related to the disruption of electronic systems.
Are there any defence strategies for cybercrimes in the UK?
The development of cybercrimes has led to the appearance of criminal solicitors specialized in offering defence in cybercrimes. These can help both the victims and those accused of such crimes. Fighting for a victim of a cybercrime is easier because of the authorities, like the NCCU, which usually helps in solving these cases. Defending an offender will imply more work and specialized assistance from lawyers who have dealt with this type of crime before. Investigations are usually the methods to reveal the evidence for such offences, as testimonies are not the usual path to follow in a cybercrime case.
Most of these crimes are tried by the civil courts in the UK. When it comes to the punishments, the fine line between legal and illegal and the great number of categories these offences can enter will make it very hard for any lawyer to anticipate the final result.
The UK is one of the pioneers to take very seriously cyber crimes and offering competent support to victims and fair trials to offenders.