Types of computer misuse

Misuse of computers and communications systems comes in several forms:


Hacking is where an unauthorised person uses a network, internet or modem connection to gain access past security passwords or other security to see data stored on another computer. Hackers sometimes use software hacking tools and often target, for example, particular sites on the internet.

Demonstration of the various weaknesses in a network which can be manipulated

Data misuse and unauthorised transfer or copying

Copying and illegal transfer of data is very quick and easy using online computers and large storage devices such as hard disks, memory sticks and DVDs. Personal data, company research and written work, such as novels and textbooks, cannot be copied without the copyright holder's permission.

Copying and distributing copyrighted software, music and film

This includes copying music and movies with computer equipment and distributing it on the internet without the copyright holder's permission. This is a widespread misuse of both computers and the internet that breaks copyright regulations.

Email and chat room abuses

Internet services such as chat rooms and email have been the subject of many well-publicised cases of impersonation and deception where people who are online pretend to have a different identity. Chat rooms have been used to spread rumours about well known personalities. A growing area of abuse of the internet is email spam, where millions of emails are sent to advertise both legal and illegal products and services.


A lot of indecent material and pornography is available through the internet and can be stored in electronic form. There have been several cases of material, which is classified as illegal, or which shows illegal acts, being found stored on computers followed by prosecutions for possession of the material.

Identity and financial abuses

This topic includes misuse of stolen or fictional credit card numbers to obtain goods or services on the internet, and use of computers in financial frauds. These can range from complex well thought out deceptions to simple uses such as printing counterfeit money with colour printers.


Viruses are relatively simple programs written by people and designed to cause nuisance or damage to computers or their files.