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Dorset named as cybercrime 'hotspot' in UK
Cybercrime has grown exponentially over the past few years and is now considered to be a global threat by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Recent reports have revealed that Dorset has become a cybercrime ‘hotspot’ in the UK. It is estimated that the county lost over £8 million to cybercriminals in the first six months of 2022 alone, amounting to a rate of seven reports per 1,000 Dorset residents.
During the same period, the police were said to have reported 178,699 incidents of fraud and cybercrime, with estimated losses totalling £1.7 billion.
Regardless of the surrounding circumstances, cybercrime is treated very seriously by prosecuting authorities. Notable recent cases, including the WeLeakInfo case in 2021, have seen heavy penalties handed out to convicted cybercriminals.
In this article, we discuss what cybercrimes tend to involve, how they are dealt with by prosecuting authorities, what your options will be if you are accused of an alleged cybercrime and how our solicitors can help.
What is cybercrime?
Cybercrime involves any type of criminal activity that takes place in an online space or utilises technology with malicious intent. Various actions could fall under the umbrella of cybercrime, including hacking, phishing, ransomware and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks.
The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is the legislation which criminalises cybercrime in the UK.
There are many different types of cybercrime that you could be convicted for, including but not limited to:
Where a cybercriminal has access to basic private information, such as an email address, they will use this in an attempt to extract further sensitive details from an unsuspecting victim. A phishing attack will usually be carried out by someone who is pretending to be a legitimate source, further hiding their true intentions.
It is possible to clone or ‘pharm’ a website. Someone may pharm a website with the intent of scamming individuals into revealing their personal details, which could range from contact details through to sensitive financial information.
Hacking is fairly straightforward. It is where a weakness in digital security is exploited, providing unauthorised access for the cybercriminal responsible for the attack. Hacks could target a single device, or a wider computer network (potentially on a commercial scale).
Malware (short for malicious software) is a term used to describe any type of software that infiltrates a device without the user’s knowledge. The damage caused by the malware can result in damage or disruption to the system, or be used to steal data.
Cyberstalking involves the use of the internet or technology to harass a targeted individual or group. Behaviour that could amount to cyberstalking can range from malicious communication, through to identity theft or blackmailing.
Cybercrime and fraud frequently come hand in hand with one another. Cybercrime can be used to facilitate acts of fraud, including stealing and misusing someone’s private information.
What sentence could you receive for committing cybercrime?
It is important to highlight the severity of the potential penalties you can face if you are convicted of an alleged cybercrime offence.
As can be expected, cybercrimes will be thoroughly investigated by the police. Where necessary, international law enforcement agencies may also be involved, especially where the alleged offence is deemed to cross multiple borders.
The exact sentence you could receive if you are convicted of cybercrime will depend on various factors, not least the exact offence that was allegedly committed. Depending on the nature of the conviction, the sentence could range from a £5,000 fine, right the way through to imprisonment.
Cybercrimes that breach national security could even be met with life imprisonment.
It is important to note that cybercrimes are also likely to be met with additional penalties based on the circumstances of the case. For example, if you are alleged to have illegally accessed and misused private data, you could be in violation of the Data Protection Act 2018. Similarly, cybercrimes such as hacking or phishing could see you charged under the Fraud Act 2006.
Have you been accused of committing a cybercrime?
Given how serious the potential penalties of cybercrime are, you may understandably be concerned about what may happen next if you are facing such allegations.
In areas like Dorset which have a high number of cybercrimes, it is possible that you will face a false accusation. In some cases, it may also simply be the case that a cybercrime has been committed unknowingly, by accident, or you had reason to believe that you had genuine consent for your actions.
No matter the circumstances, if you have been accused of a cybercrime, it is essential that you speak to a specialist criminal law solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
While there is a general misconception that speaking to a solicitor will be an indication of guilt, this is in no way accurate. Having an experienced criminal law solicitor on side from an early stage will be essential, as they can carefully review your situation and advise you on what actions could serve to harm your defence.
How our solicitors can help
If you, or someone you know, are facing a criminal prosecution for a cybercrime offence, our team of expert criminal law solicitors at Renshaw Derrick can help.
Our team have considerable experience successfully providing criminal defence for those in both the Dorset area and further afield. We have the expertise needed to navigate difficult situations, including where you have been arrested or need a representative in court.
Our team of cybercrime solicitors have specialist experience handling a wide range of cybercrime offences, including those related to Computer Misuse offences and fraud. Our solicitors are able to provide high-quality and straightforward support, no matter your circumstances.
Whether you have been charged for a cybercrime offence or are facing an investigation, we can advise you on your options moving forward.