Increased reliance on the internet means increased capacity for harm, especially in the post COVID-19 era

As our reliance on the internet grows, from buying food, working from home, organising our finances to research for education, there are those who would use this technology towards criminal ends. Even online video games have been used by criminal syndicates to launder money across the world. Accordingly, cybercrime has grown over the years, especially in degrees of sophistication. The potential for the covert nature of cyberattacks has made them an increasingly appealing mechanism to inflict harm.

The Australian governments and vital industries have recently been the victims of significant cyberattacks that have the potential to impact important infrastructures and public services, with China being considered a likely source of the threat. This is at a time when such industries are suffering the impact of the pandemic and resources are already being stretched.

The Australian Prime Minister said the threats displayed a degree of complexity that could only originate from a state-based actor. The targeted industries include the education sector, health sector, various essential services and political organisations. These cyberattacks have been a trend in recent months. Some speculate these cyberattacks are a result of the tensions between Australia and the Chinese government, due to the Australian Government’s call for an independent investigation into the source of the COVID-19, which has killed over 453,000 people, infected over 8 million people and crippled the world economy. Let’s take a step back and first discuss what is cybercrime.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is used to describe criminal offences directed at computers or other information communications technologies and crimes where a computer or information communication technology is a vital component to carry out the offence. There are multiple offences that are committed in the cyberspace.

Section 477.2(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) states:

          “(1) A person commits an offence if:

                     (a)  the person causes any unauthorised modification of data held in a computer; and

                     (b)  the person knows the modification is unauthorised; and

                     (c)  the person is reckless as to whether the modification impairs or will impair:

                              (i)  access to that or any other data held in any computer; or

                             (ii)  the reliability, security or operation, of any such data.

Penalty:  10 years imprisonment.”

The publishing or distribution of photos and films

Section 91H of the Crimes Act (NSW) makes it an offence to produce, disseminate or possess child abuse material. Section 91H(1) states:

“disseminate child abuse material, includes –

  1. send, supply, exhibit, transmit or communicate it to another person, or
  2. make it available for access by another person”.

Unfortunately, the internet has been used for the dissemination of child abuse material.

The Wonderland Club, an international online paedophile ring ran for four years before being taken down by police in an international effort. The club had a chairman, a treasurer and a board of members that had served for a long period of time. The club required each new member to supply 10,000 pornographic images of children.


One must wonder how quickly the nature of social media would change if the following offence was more widely known. Part 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) states that:

“A person commits an offence if:

  1. the person uses a carriage service; and
  2. the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years”.

Causing an unauthorised computer function with intent to commit a serious indictable offence

Section 308C of the Crimes Act (NSW) states that:

“A person who causes any unauthorised computer function-

  1. knowing it is unauthorised, and
  2. with the intent of committing a serious indictable offence, or facilitating the commission of a serious indictable offence (whether by the person or by another person), is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty – The maximum penalty applicable if the person had committed, or facilitated the commission of, the serious indictable offence in this jurisdiction”.

The crime of Fraud

Section 192E(1) of the Crimes Act (NSW) states that:

“A person who, by any deception, dishonestly –

  1. obtains property belonging to another, or
  2. obtains any financial advantage or causes any financial disadvantage, is guilty of the offence of fraud.

Maximum penalty – Imprisonment for 10 years”.

How many of you have been catfished?

Dealing with identification information

Section 192J of the Crimes Act (NSW) states that:

“A person who deals in identification information with the intention of committing, or of facilitating the commission of, an indictable offence is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty – Imprisonment for 10 years”.

Possession of identification information

Section 192K of the Crimes Act (NSW) states that:

“A person who possesses identification information with the intention of committing or of facilitating the commission of, an indictable offence is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty – Imprisonment for 7 years”.


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