Cybercrime: Victim or Offender?

April 4, 2023

Photo of Criminal Justice Doctoral Student Makayla BurdenThe technological revolution of the 21st century has changed the way we live. Careers can be built without stepping foot into an office, friendships are made across the globe, and degrees can be earned virtually. Opportunities that were not available to most twenty years ago are now within reach.

Unfortunately, the rise of the internet has also enabled the rise of cybercrime with the risk of being a victim of cybercrime rapidly increasing.

Over the last year, Makayla Burden (PhD Student in the School of Criminal Justice) has been one of a limited group of criminologists hoping to reduce the rate of cybercrime. These researchers are studying what traits are predictors of being both a cybercrime offender and victim.

Makayla explains: “A common assumption is that individuals who are involved in crime are either a victim or an offender. However, categorizing people as belonging to one of these mutually exclusive groups creates a false dichotomy. Instead, there is a certain amount of victim-offender overlap where individuals are both victims and perpetrators of crime.”

In the past, researchers believed that familiarity with computers and time spent online were the biggest predictors of cybercrime victimization and offending. However, Makayla found that familiarity with computers was not a significant predictor of cybercrime involvement and only time spent on a few online activities were significant in her most recent study.

Instead, her findings show that a person’s level of self-control was a large predictor in cybercrime victimization and offending. The lower level of self-control an individual had, the more likely they were to be a victim or offender of cybercrime. There were also group-specific differences between the mutually exclusive groups: victims-only, offenders-only, victim-offenders, and those who are neither.

Makayla says these findings show that more research is needed, especially since cybercrime is a developing and rapidly changing area of criminology. In order for law enforcement and policy makers to stay ahead of cybercriminals, they need researchers to continue to study and assess the predictors of cybercrime generally, as well as the victim-offender overlap.