Cybercrime against private users

Project period

01.10.2019 – 31.12.2021

Prroject staff

Dr. Anna Isenhardt (project manager)

Philipp Müller

Alina Hein (research assistant)


Prof. Dr. Gina Wollinger, FHöV NRW

Marie Christine Bergmann, Central Police Department of Lower Saxony


Pro*Niedersachsen – Funding Program of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture

Project description

The use of the Internet is a part of the everyday life for the majority of the German population. There are many possibilities and activities online. Thus, there are also many new opportunities to commit a crime. Nevertheless, there is no legal definition or defined criminal offence of cybercrime. Therefore, the range of offences associated with cybercrime is equally wide and includes various criminal activities which are connected with the internet: from spying out of data, computer viruses and credit card fraud to cyberbullying and -stalking. Because of the variety of offences, it is useful to distinguish between two categories of cybercrime: cyber dependent and cyber enabled crime. Cyber dependent crimes are crimes where a digital system is the target as well as the tool of a attack, such as malware or ransomware. They can be committed only through the use of the internet or computers. Whereas cyber enabled crimes are traditional crimes which are committed by the use of computers or computer networks. In the latter, the internet is used as a tool and not regarded as the aim of a crime. Examples are cyber-enabled fraud and data theft or cybermobbing and -stalking.

In contrast to increasing victimization rates of internet users, research on cybercrime against private users is scarce. There is still a lack of knowledge about possible risk factors and protective actions when it comes to our behavior online. Previous research is also lacking information about psychological consequences and reactions of the person concerned, especially regarding prosecution of cybercrime and experiences with criminal investigation offices. Generally, there is little information of delinquents of cybercrime but especially in the context of perpetrators of cyberbullying and cyberstalking and their relationship to the victim.

The aim of this study is to close this research gap. Therefore, a representative dark field survey of 10.000 inhabitants (16 and older) of Lower-Saxony will be carried out. Based on these data, fundamental criminological questions regarding the background and connections of cybercrime will be answered. First, we aim to gain more information about prevalence, personal characteristics, user behavior and reactions in response of certain offences. Second, different factors that influence the risk of becoming a victim or an offender of different cybercrime offences will be identified. In addition, based on the results of the survey, guide-lined interviews with victims of cybercrime will be led, which will provide a deeper understanding on the reaction of victimization paying special attention to the contact to the police or other organizations. The results will help public authorities like consumer protection agencies to improve their handling of cybercrime victims and becoming a better counterpart for internet users. This study also examines whether classic survey methods for offline crime are an appropriate research tool in this field.

Project related publications
  • Isenhardt, A., Müller, P. & Wollinger, G. (2021): Cybercrime gegen Privatnutzer*innen: Ausmaß und Prävention. Erste Ergebnisse einer Befragung von Privatnutzer*innen in Niedersachsen. In: Claudia Heinzelmann & Erich Marks (Hrsg.): Prävention orientiert! … planen … schulen … austauschen … Ausgewählte Beiträge des 26. Deutschen Präventionstages. Forum Verlag Godesberg, S. 391-408.
  • Müller, P., Isenhardt, A., Wollinger, G.R.  & Bergmann, M.C. (2022): Viktimisierungen durch Cybercrime: Psychische Folgen und Reaktionen. In: Rüdiger, TG., Bayerl, P.S. (Hrsg.) Handbuch Cyberkriminologie. Springer VS, Wiesbaden, S. 1-31.
  • Müller, P., Dreißigacker, A. & Isenhardt, A. (2022): Cybercrime gegen Privatpersonen. Ergebnisse einer repräsentativen Bevölkerungsbefragung in Niedersachsen. (KFN-Forschungsberichte Nr. 168). Hannover: KFN.