An Overview of Theories That Try to Explain the Concept of Cyber Crime

Table of contents


Computer technology is now a central part of everyday life. People can instantaneously

connect with friends in real time and without geographical limitations. However, computers have also brought challenges such as cybercrime (Holt and Bossler, 2016). In basic terms, cyber crime denotes the use of computer technology to a commit crime (s). Researchers have developed various theories that try to explain the whole concept of cyber crime.

Criminological theory fails to account for cyber crime on several accounts.

Criminological theory seems to have been developed on account of street crime or simply put; they are more responsive to ‘tangible crime’. The theories are helpful in addressing observable crime, but it is unclear how this theory applies in virtual offending. A particular limitation of the theory is its failure to specify testable prepositions in relation to certain offenders and victim condition (Holt and Bossler, 2016). As such, the specification that this theories proposes do not allow for more accurate prediction of crime.

The theory is to a large extent described as tautological, in that they propose causes that are difficult to measure or quantify (Walsh, 2014). For instance, a researcher may hypothesize that greed causes people to commit a crime. Then, it would be possible to theorize that the person is greedy because he or she committed a crime. In this case, it is proper to deduce that ‘greed’ should be defined as a person who commits crime. Such an ‘error’ is known as the circle of reasoning because there lacks sufficient conditions to scientifically test the ‘greed’ claim. Contextually, the theory may propose the causes of cyber crime, but the causes are not measurable in empirical terms (Holt and Bossler, 2016).

On the other hand, criminological theory is helpful in understanding cyber crime. The

rational is that it gives direct insights into the rates as well as the prevalence of cybercrimes offenses (Holt, 2013). The insights are based on data collected from a particular criminal justice jurisdiction. In addition, the theory gives its consumers deep understanding of prospective predictors of both offending and victimization. As such, agencies can address legal, technical as well as policy responses to crime (Holt, 2013).

The traditional approaches in explaining criminal behavior should be modified so as consistently and accurately explain cyber crime. Current criminological theory should be a multi- disciplinary that combines germane aspects of sociology, anthropology, psychology and biological theories so as enhance the understanding of criminal behavior (Walsh, 2014). In addition, the theory should ensure internal logical consistency where it has to be presented in a logical manner. The logical aspect is only satisfied if the theory has clearly stated propositions

that do not contract each other.

There are notable challenges in empirically testing criminological theory. Operational- zing a criminal construct is a considerable challenge (Miller, Reynolds, Ittenbach, Luce, Beauchamp, & Nelson, 2009). In particular, it is difficult for researchers to link a construct definition to a concrete indicator that can be empirically measured. Generally criminology researchers do not have existing instruments that can exhaustively measure various constructs.

Moreover, ensuring content validity is a critical challenge. That is, it is a challenge to develop actual items that will ensure clarity and content validity (MacDonald, 2011). The items may include; focus groups, clinical information, expert opinion or key informant interview. In same breadth, researchers have been unable to develop measurement items that guarantee “discriminant” validity. Items that lack discriminant validity is likely to tap into other construct. Lastly, another measurement challenge is variation in legal instruments (MacDonald, 2011). In a criminal justice jurisdiction like the US, different states have different laws on the same item. For

instance, different states have different marijuana laws. The variation in laws affect any measurement initiative as a single or common measurement plan cannot be instituted across jurisdiction. In the end, different scores are produced on the same variable.


  1. Holt, T. (2013). Cybercrime and Criminological Theory: Fundamental Readings on Hacking, Piracy, Theft, and Harassment (First Edition). Cognella, 2(1-228).

  2. Holt, T. and Bossler, A. (2016). Cybercrime in progress. Theory and prevention of technology-

    enabled offenses. Routledge

  3. MacDonald, J. (2011). Measuring crime & criminality. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction


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