Difference Between Cyber Crime and Conventional Crime in Tabular Form


A considerable threat to cyber security is increasing with time and technological advancement. Cybercrime harms budgetary outcomes since it brings financial misfortune, and infringement of intellectual property rights affects the mutual trust among different organizations. Such misfortunes have extensive and long-drawn effects on the general public and the developed market. The direct effect of cybercrimes could be market contortions, misfortune in job opportunities, loss of trust among the influenced associations and expanded cost in undertaking measures required to prevent cybercrimes besides the prosecution cost. Cybercrime is the most cutting-edge challenge that has triggered the concern of specialists nowadays. The dynamicity of the crime makes it trickier to manage.

What is Cyber Crime?

Cybercrime could be any criminal act dealing with computers and computer networks. Cybercrime could also be the traditional crimes that are conducted through the internet. For example, several hate crimes, internet fraud, theft of identity and theft of credit card accounts are termed as cyber crimes wherein these illegal activities are committed through the utilization of a computer and the online mode. Cybercrimes also include offences that are committed by targeting individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to deliberately inflict physical harm or cause mental agony to a victim by injuring his reputation either directly or indirectly; via the utilization of mobile phones and other modern technologies such as internet and its related applications.

Cybercrimes could necessarily threaten a nation’s security and financial health. Issues surrounding cybercrimes have become high-profile, particularly those that encompass crimes like hacking, copyright infringement, child grooming and pornography. Problems of compromise in privacy have crept in when confidential information is disclosed or leaked, either lawfully or otherwise. Internationally, cybercrimes are committed in various cross-border crimes and financial theft.[1]

What is Conventional Crime?

Conventional crime refers to traditionally evolved actions that are illegal and punishable by law. It includes a wide range of crimes similar to theft, stalking, and medicine and body-related crimes. A conventional crime, for instance, a murder, robbery or rape, has an apparent victim; therefore, it is easier to notice the impact of the crime on the individual. Cybercrimes also fall within the ambit of conventional crimes. However, the only difference is that cybercrimes require modern dynamic technologies and gadgets. The conventional crimes include traditional street crimes such as murder, assault, burglary, rape, etc. In the case of conventional crimes, apart from the targeted victim, often there are instances of the primary witnesses of such crime getting equally injured and affected, which in turn creates considerable terror in the mind of the surrounding people where the crime has been committed. Conventional crimes are not always committed for monetary profit; sometimes, such crimes are the reflection of vengeance too.

Comparative Analysis

There are borderline Difference between cyber crime and conventional crime. Such differences are as follows:

Parameters Cyber Crime Conventional Crime
1.      Evidence of the Offences Cybercriminals rely on the internet to commit the crime; they leave behind very little evidence that is too difficult to trace. Conventional criminals usually leave traces of a crime through either fingerprints or other physical evidence that are comparatively feasible to trace.
2.      Length of Investigation Since cybercrime involves offenders utilizing fake identities and working from unknown locations, procuring their real identities is time-consuming and difficult. In most cases, cybercriminals escape due to the law enforcement authority’s lack of scope to detect them. In contrast, in the case of conventional crimes, it is feasible to detect the offender since these offenders usually leave behind specific evidence that is credible enough and are admissible in the Court of Law, owing to their presence in physical form. For example, conventional criminals often leave behind evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, photographs, and videos captured by the Closed Circuit Television or any other belongings such as identity cards, wallets and so on, which eases the pathway for the investigators to trace them and procure their real identity. In the event of having adequate admissibility of this evidence in the Court of Law, it becomes easier for the judiciary to award appropriate punishment to the accused without any considerable delay.
3.      Use of Force Cybercrimes could be committed without force since the criminals target their victim’s identities to commit theft and other online crimes. For example, cybercriminals use spoofing and phishing to procure private information from their victims, such as credit card numbers, or use encrypted emails to coordinate violence remotely, which does not necessarily include using force. Traditional crimes, such as rape, murder, and burglary, among others, mandates the use of force that leaves the victim with significant physical injury and mental trauma.
4.      Scale of Attacks  Cyber-attacks can be conducted on a scale not possible to detect or ascertain. A cybercriminal can target 100 sites at once and hack or commit theft of data from the same. In the case of traditional crimes, it is physically impossible for a bank robber to loot 100 banks in a day. Therefore, the scale of attacks is limited.
5.      Reach of Attacks Cyber-attacks can be performed from anywhere in the world; they can be performed anonymously and within jurisdictions where the criminal justice system may not address the consequences of those actions. Attackers can also extract far more data digitally than possible in the physical world. In traditional crime, it demands specific circumstances and conditions for the crime to occur; e.g. in public places, it is less likely to commit a murder. Traditional crimes cannot be performed anonymously since the evidence left behind can conveniently point out the offender who has committed the crime.
6.      Speed of Attacks Cyber-attacks are conducted at machine speed; a criminal can write code targeting multiple sites in minutes. Conventional crimes could take a considerable period to plan and commit and is not a matter of seconds.
7.      Perception and Media Effect The public and media perception of cybercrime differs from conventional crime. When large financial institutions have been hacked, the media often wholly conclude their blame on the organizations rather than the criminals individually. In the case of conventional crimes, the media and the public have always held the offender and the state responsible for the offence committed; since the offender’s identity is easier to trace, the liability could be attributed feasibly in the case of conventional crimes.
8.      Medium of Committing the Offence The offender commits both cybercrimes and conventional crimes. However, the modus operandi differs. Cybercrimes include phishing, hacking, spoofing, cyberstalking and others. Cybercrimes need the aid of a computing device and a network for their execution. Conventional crimes are all about the crimes that take place physically and outside the computer, i.e., mainly offline crimes. Traditional crimes involve murder, robbery, kidnapping and much more.
9.      Cyberstalking v. Stalking Both are similar; however, the medium in which these offences are committed is comparatively different. Offenders holding a good academic background and sophisticated degrees often commit cyberstalking. Offenders committing cybercrimes are required to be tech-savvy. The most common reason for cyberstalking is easy to access to the money the offenders extract by tricking others through cyberstalking. Comparatively, stalking is an act of repeatedly pursuing a person; the criminals involved in conventional crimes are generally from a poor economic background, living a frustrated livelihood and are not sober to think and act. Offenders committing conventional crimes may or may not be technically sound.
10.  Types of victims targeted Cybercrime targets interconnected online systems, digital assets, and sensitive personal or health information. Conventional crime targets individuals or physical assets such as offices, relatives, and homes.
11.  Scale of crime Cybercrimes are committed on a large scale because physical proximity to the victim is not required in such a crime.

e.g., A single computer can hack thousands of bank websites. Furthermore, it can loot them at a single instance.

However, conventional crime is physically close to the victim on a limited scale.

e.g., A robber can rob one or two banks in a single day only.


12.  Types of Consequences Victims of cybercrime experience damage to their digital reputation or loss of sensitive personal information that can be used for identity theft. Conventional crime can have physical, emotional, and financial consequences for victims.

Mens Rea & Actus Reus

The two most essential elements mandatory to constitute a criminal liability in the case of conventional crimes are the Mens Rea and Actus Reus. Actus Reus is the consequence of human conduct which the law seeks to prevent. Both commission and omission must be present to constitute a crime. “Mens Rea” denotes the mental element, i.e., a guilty state of mind. It means that the act remains the same; the state of mind is making the act reus, therefore, an offence. Any crime requires evidence of a mental element of a particular kind depending upon the nature of the offence. However, it is pretty much challenging to conclude mensrea in the case of cybercrimes. It is pertinent to mention that in cases of cybercrimes, the state of mind of the hacker must be analysed first and that the unauthorised access was in the hacker’s knowledge while committing the crime has to be established to determine the criminal liability.[2]

In the instances of cybercrime, it is comparatively easier to prove the criminal liability of the hacker from the perspective of awareness, wherein the hacker is an outsider and lacks absolute authority to access the computer which has been hacked. However, suppose the hacker is an employee of a Company with limited authority to access the computer that has been hacked. In that case, proving that he has acted in excess of his authority and even had the knowledge of crossing his limits becomes difficult.

“Actus Reus” in the case of cybercrimes becomes a prominent issue since its admissibility as credible evidence is highly questioned in the Court of Law. Cybercrimes are committed in a non-physical environment, making it difficult to detect the identities of the offenders. However, the offenders often leave behind their fingerprints on the devices themselves, which, even though they are traceable, are not conclusive enough to construct a criminal liability and becomes equally challenging for the law enforcement authority to present such fingerprints in the court of law as they lack any physical forms or any other forms which shall be admissible as credible evidence before the court.[3]


The involvement of complexities in getting hold of cyber criminals has made way for them to avoid punishments. As a result, unlike conventional offenders, they do not confront the similar gravity of punishment, which encourages them to commit such crimes at an elevated level. However, without fixed and demarcated parameters, it is difficult to opine that cybercrime should be punished more severely than conventional crimes. The prosecution, with time, has demonstrated adequate advancement technologically to cope with the instant malevolent programmes related to cybercrimes that are capable enough to cause harm to a large mass, besides undertaking reasonable measures so that these cyber criminals do not escape imprisonment. A couple of years ago, the law enforcement authority lacked the necessary set-up and regulations to trace and prevent such mass-harming cybercrimes.

One argument is also ethical that we cannot just confirm that cyber criminals get much less punishment than the conventional ones in consideration of financial loss since finance is the essential means of our regular life. However, there are instances wherein rich men could get loose from the clutches of law despite committing heinous crimes such as rape and murder solely at the backup of their financial background. In contrast, a poor man merely for hacking a website or stealing data suffers several years of imprisonment. Henceforth, there are no rigid or fixed parameters to compare the gravity of punishments in practical implementations for cybercrimes and conventional crimes. However, to combat the high intensity of cybercrimes, it is equally vital to award severe punishments for cybercrime just like the conventional ones. The punishment awarded for the abetment to commit suicide in a conventional crime must be similar to the abetment to commit suicide as a consequence of a cybercrime; in that way, the gravity of both the conventional and cybercrime could be endeavoured to equalize. Speedy trials must be practised to prevent suicidal cases caused consequently to cybercrimes. Technology has ever been proven to be a boon subject to its protection and adequate involvement of an appropriately constructed regulatory framework to monitor its fair utilization.

[1] S. K. Verma, Raman Mittal, Legal Dimension of Cyberspace, Indian Law Institute, New Delhi.

[2]VermaAmita, ‘Cyber Crimes & Law’, Central Law Publication, p-157-158 also available at http://www.legalindia.com/cyber-stalking-the-impact-of-its-legislative-provisions-in-india/

[3]Dr.Sirohi M. N., Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare, Alpha Editions Delhi.

Amrapali Mukherjee

I have completed my Masters in Commercial and Corporate Law from the Queen Mary University of London with upper merit and a distinction in the dissertation, currently, I am working as a Legal Advisor for a partnership firm at Kolkata.