What Is Computer Fraud?

Computer fraud is a criminal offense under cybercriminal law. Computer fraud occurs, for example, when a perpetrator interferes with the function of computer programs without permission, modifies them, or operates them with false deeds, and a financial loss is incurred by a third party. Attempts are also punishable. The penalties range from fines to imprisonment of five years.

What is computer fraud?

Computer fraud is a term used in German case law and legislation. It is a property crime. Since many criminal acts via computer systems were not covered by the offense of ordinary fraud and such offenses were increasing, the offense of computer fraud was added to the German Criminal Code (StGB) in 1986 in § 263a.

According to the law, acts are prohibited and punishable if they are intended to cause financial damage to persons, companies, or organizations by manipulating computers and computer programs or by using false data and to obtain an unlawful pecuniary advantage. The attempt is already punishable. The model for computer fraud is a fraud as defined in Section 263 of the Criminal Code.

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The Criminal Code provides for fines or imprisonment of up to five years as the penalty for the offense of computer fraud. The paragraph of computer fraud has been amended or extended several times. New paragraphs were added in 1998 and 2002, for example, containing penalty provisions or making preparatory acts punishable. As an official offense, computer fraud is prosecuted ex officio.

There is an exclusivity relationship between computer fraud and theft, as there is between fraud and theft, on the basis of which the two offenses are mutually exclusive.

In the field of computer crime, computer fraud is the most frequently reported offense in Germany. A typical example of computer fraud is the unauthorized use of payment cards at ATMs. In the criminal codes of other European countries, there are paragraphs of law with similar offenses that show great parallels to German computer fraud.

The proposed penalty for the offense of computer fraud

The range of penalties provided for in the German Criminal Code for computer fraud ranges from fines to prison sentences of up to five years. In addition, there is a stricter penalty for particularly serious cases of computer fraud, which provides for prison sentences of six months to ten years.

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Fines are generally excluded in these cases. A particularly serious case of computer fraud occurs when perpetrators act on a commercial or gang basis or cause very great damage or cause economic hardship to other persons. Abuse of authority or position as a public official may also result in a more severe penalty.

Examples of the offense of computer fraud

Typical examples of the offense of computer fraud are:

  • Misuse of payment or credit cards
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of money from at ms with stolen or counterfeit cards
  • Carrying out online bank transfers with illegally obtained data
  • Unauthorized online ordering of goods with other people’s accounts or with illegally obtained data