Currently, various Internet related technologies have generated new forms of human communication and interaction, bringing about new types of economic activities, social behaviours and even new social structures. Along with these, advances in technologies have also given rise to a new criminological phenomenon - cybercrime.

It is clear that cybercrime makes a significant contribution to the overall total of crimes committed nationally and internationally. The nature of cybercrime is of such complexity that it is unlikely to collect accurate and precise estimates, but a substantial amount of crime is likely to be related to the Internet and associated technologies.

Cybercrime is not officially defined. There are disagreements nationally and internationally regarding the definition of it. In theory, definitions are subjected to alterations by the use of crime type definitions in official crime statistical collections. In practice, different functional definitions are in use in various countries, which are of wide dimensions, covering various offences within the categories of organised crime, commercial crime, sex-related crime and deviance in cybercommunities. Research has shown that organised Crime (OC) groups are using computer technologies to both facilitate traditional crimes and create new forms of serious organised crime. Research has suggested that the commercial sector is the most obvious target for computer related crime and the financial losses from various offences within this category are significant nationally and internationally. Sex-related crimes are of serious concern since the use of the Internet and associated technologies by the sex industry is far more prevalent than providing and selling pornographic material. Research has demonstrated that the distribution of child pornography and the online grooming of children by pedophiles have been growing in a rapidly increasing rate since the late 1990s.      

The prevalence of cybercrime is significant. However, the exact prevalence and frequency of it, is hard to estimate since crime statistical reports of cybercrime have the common problem of serious under-estimation. The problem of under-presentation of cybercrime is caused by both general problems of crime statistics collection and interpretation, and specific problems which are only applied to cybercrime statistics.

Research has suggested that Internet related criminal activities are certainly included in general crime statistical reports. However, explicit notes of the involvement of the Internet and associated technologies are not observed. Hence, the degree to which offences are exacerbated by the facilitation of these technologies is hard to estimate. Most of official and unofficial cybercrime statistical reports are targeted at the business sector. The volume of these reports is significant yet the figures produced may not be representative. There is neither official crime statistical reports nor detailed studies about the extent of crime/deviance in cybercommunities. Research has suggested that government agencies may not consider these offences as criminal or more accurately anti-social behaviours as they do not result in any tangible/physical harm. Moreover, there is much debate over whether these online environments are newly created societies or merely grounds for virtual gaming.

In order to gain an intrinsic understanding of cybercrime, we may need to re-evaluate the term  cybercrime by separating it into two terms - cyber and crime. In studying the term 'cyber', we examine the role of the Internet and its associated technologies. Does it generate new criminal behaviours? The definition and categorisation of cybercrime should be based on the role of the Internet and associated technologies. By re-examine the term 'crime', we analyse offences of cyber related crime that appreciate the traditional legal definition of crime; and evaluate the possibility of some offences in the realm of cyber related crime that call for a reappraisal of the definition of crime.

Victoria Wang