Computer Crime

Computer Crime In todays society our most valuable commodity is not grain, steel or even technology; it is information. Because of computer networks, just about everyone can now access an astounding range of information. The Internet is international, even though 80 percent of the Internet use occurs in the United States, and a staggering amount of information on every subject imaginable is available for free. Because so many people now have access, computer crimes have become more frequent. Everyone with a computer and a modem can commit a computer crime if so inclined.

Anyone, conceivably, could become a “white collar” computer criminal. When the term “white collar” crime came into wide spread use several decades ago, it was thought that certain crimes were committed by persons whom no one would normally suspect of criminal behavior: professional, “white collar” workers. In the late 1990s, however, the term “white collar” is somewhat inaccurate. The playing field has been leveled by the widespread use of computers. Now “white collar crime” tends to mean simply”non violent crime” or “economic crime.” As technology becomes increasingly accessible to more and more people, it also becomes a potential tool for increasing numbers of criminals.

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Most computer crimes do not involve violence but rather greed, pride, or play on some character weakness of the victim. They are based on dishonesty and not force. For these reasons, computer crimes are considered white collar. Just as the term “white collar crime” designates several kinds of crime, the term computer crime also designated several types of crime. It includes crimes that are committed with a computer, crimes that occur in cyber space, and crimes committed against a computer.

Some of the crimes are completely new; while others are older crimes that merely use the computer as a tool. The endless and constant growing variety of computer crimes makes it difficult to pass laws that adequately cover new computer crimes. Some crimes such as embezzlement, wire fraud, and forgery, are already covered under existing law. Others, such as cyber vandalism, cyber terrorism, and cyber espionage, are relatively new. For these newer crimes, the letter of the existing law sometimes does not allow prosecution of what clearly is criminal behavior. Employees and ex-employees of the victimized company commit most “white collar crimes”. Likewise about 75 to 80 percent of prosecuted computer crimes are committed by current or former employees.

There are many different kinds of computer crimes ranging from identity theft to sexual harassment to otherwise ordinary “white collar” crimes that happen to involve a computer. The most common form is online theft and fraud. Phreaks, crackers, and sometimes hackers illegally access and use voice mail, e-mail, and network access accounts-which constitute toll fraud or wire fraud. Long distance access codes are in great demand by the hackers, crackers, phone phreaks and street criminal. Some cyber-criminals obtain the codes by “shoulder surfing” or looking over the shoulder of unwary people in phone booths. One reason that this is a common is a common form of crime among hackers and phone phreaks is because they tend to run up enormous phone bills pursuing their hobbies for 10 12 hours a day. Others obtain the codes from “pirate” electronic bulletin boards, where they are posted in exchange for free software, credit card numbers or other information.

Software piracy is another growing and seemingly insurmountable problem. It is illegal under American Copyright Laws, but most software piracy actually takes place overseas. Federal copyright laws are often insufficient even to prosecute United States citizens, as illustrated by the now famous case of David La Macchia. La Macchia, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, distributed free software through a bulletin board service on a M.I.T computer. After a FBI probe La Macchia was indited on 1994 for conspiracy to committee fraud. The software he offered reportedly had a total value of over one million dollars, but La Macchia argued that he had not distributed the software for financial gain and therefore could not have violated the federal copyright laws.

The case was dismissed. One of the most freighting computer crimes is identity theft. This kind of fraud is much easier than it was once, because a wealth of personnel information is available online for free, and even more personal information is available for a small fee. Now that drivers license numbers are also stored on computers, which a re usually part of a larger network, a persons physical characteristics-eye color, height, and persons physical characteristics-are also available. Magnetic strips on credit cards and ATM cards require computers to read them and to keep records of the millions of transactions made ever day.

Like identity theft, some other computer crimes are not new, except that the perpetrator now uses computer to commit them. For example, money laundering has been committed for many decades. But a money laundered using a computer is able to carry out the crime much more quickly6 and efficiently, just as computers enable legitimate workers to for their jobs more quickly and efficiently. There are several forms of computer criminals; the term “hacker” describes a person extremely adept and clever at programming. The term later came to mean a person adept to “cracking” new systems undetected. Hackers are merely curious but can unintentionally cause considerable damage.

But the quest for information and learning-not revenge or maliciousness-is what drives most hackers to pursue their hobby so relentlessly. “Crackers”, on the other hand, are malicious hackers. They break into systems to vandalize, plant viruses and worms, delete files, or wreak some other kind of havoc. Embezzlement, fraud, or industrial espionage is just a few of the crackers possible objectives. Cyber espionage exists between countries as well as between companies, so it poses a danger to our national security.

There is no disputing that what crackers do is dangerous as well as illegal. Another form of computer crime is perpetrated by “phone phreaks.” Instead of accessing computer systems phreaks explore the cyber world through phone lines. Phreaks were among the earliest forms of hackers, operating as early as the 1970s.One incident caused by phreaks, involved the New York City Police Department. Phreaks broke into the NYPDs phone system and changed the taped message that greeted callers. The new message said, “officers are too busy eating doughnuts and drinking coffee to answer the phones.” It directed callers to dial 119 in an emergency.

The enormous range of computer crimes means that all of society should be concerned about computer security, regardless of our individual level of computer expertise. World financial systems rely heavily on computers, as do national defenses, private businesses, and increasingly, personal correspondence.” We are all users,” in the words of Buck Bloonbecker, whether or not we actually use computers, because we all rely on them. We must not view computer crime as an exotic activity. To do so would prevent us from seeing that it endangers each one of us.

computer crime

Computer Crime: Prevention and Innovation
Since the introduction of computers to our society, and in the early 80s the Internet, the world has never been the same. Suddenly our physical world got smaller and the electronic world set its foundations for an endless electronic reality. As we approach the year 2000, the turn of the millenium, humanity has already well established itself into the Information Age. So much in fact that as a nation we find our selves out of a service economy and into an information based economy. In a matter of only a few years almost all systems are run buy computers in some way, shape, or form. We depend on them for everything. Even the smallest malfunction or glitch in a system could now cause unfathomable amounts of trouble in everything from riding the bus, having access to your money, to getting your prescription at the pharmacists. Furthermore, Icove suggested that with the price of home computers that work faster and store more memory going down every year due to competition in the market, it is estimated that by the year 2011 most every American home will have a PC with instant access to the Internet. With an increase in users everyday and new businesses taking advantage of perks of an alternate electronic world, this information dimension will only get bigger, more elaborate, provide more services, and we will find society as a whole more and more dependent on it.
However, even in an artificial environment such as the cyberspace, it appears mankind cannot escape from its somewhat overwhelming natural attraction to wrongful behavior or criminal tendencies. In turn this alternative dimension has been infected with the same criminal behavior that plagues our physical reality. The information age has opened the doors to anti social, smart, and opportunistic people to find new and innovative ways to commit old crimes. These people are called hackers.

What is the social Problem?
Computer crime is the official name given to this criminal phenomenon driven by hackers. Although a solid definition of computer crime has yet to be agreed upon by scholars, it is described in a functional manner encompassing old crimes such as forgery, theft, mischief, fraud, manipulation or altering of documents; all of which are usually subject to criminal sanctions everywhere. Also included in the description or computer crime is the unauthorized invasion or trespass of data base systems of private companies or government agencies. According to Schamalleger computer crime is also described as any violation of a federal or state computer crime statue.
It has been suggested that the history of computer crime and hacking started in the late 1950s when AT&T first implemented its interstate phone system and direct distance dialing (DDD). Manipulation of the way that the DDD system worked, in order to make free long distance calling, was the objective of this crime. What the early hackers did was duplicate the particularly distinguishable tones that the phone companies used in their early switching devices enabling them to fool the system into thinking that the customer has paid. A person who used any number of devices available for manipulating switch systems in order to explore or exploit is called a phone phreak.
Who are the perpetrators?
Computer crime, like any other criminal activity, is a product of opportunity, desire, and ability. Anyone who owns a computer or has access to a computer has the opportunity to misuse its systems to engage in criminal activity. Researchers found that the average age of most computer crime defendants is between the ages of 21 and 23. The second highest age groups of computer crime defendants are between 18 and 20. They suggested that hackers could be classified into the following groups based on their psychological characteristics: pioneers, scamps, explorers, game players, vandals, and addicts.
Among these six classifications of hackers, hard-core computer criminals are mostly found in the explorers, game players, vandals, and addicts. Pioneers are simply captivated by technology and explore with out necessarily knowing what they are getting into or without specific criminal intent. Scamps are curious and playful hackers that intend no real harm. Explorers, on the other hand, specifically look for highly sophisticated and secured systems that are relatively far from their physical location. The further away and the more sophisticated the systems that are being broken into are, the more exciting it is for the explorer. For the game player hacker, hacking is a sport that involves the identification and defeat of software, systems, and copyright protections. Vandals are hateful, angry hackers that strike harshly, randomly, and without any apparent personal gain other then knowledge, responsibility, and credit for such acts. Finally, addicts are your stereotypical nerdy individuals that are literally addicted to computer technology and hacking itself like an addict is to drugs. Due to these obsessive behavioral patterns it is not surprising that many of these types of hackers are coincidentally hooked on illicit drugs too.
Who Does the Problem Affect?
Since the 1950s, technology has skyrocketed raising the capability of computers along with it. In turn computer crime has also evolved at the same rate from mere phone phreaking, to a complex categorization of crime all to itself. So much in fact that computer crime is now a global concern due to the financial burden that it places onto its victims. Primary victims to computer crime are the companies or government agencies database systems that are being invaded. By doing so the hacker is hoping to cause some sort of loss or inconvenience and either directly or indirectly benefit themselves or a group they belong to or have strong affiliation with. Secondary victimization is what happens to the public when they begin to fear that no information or computer system that we rely on is ever truly safe from hackers. In short computer crime affects the entire world
Computer use, misuse, and abuse.
Computer use is grouped into three categories. Those categories are proper computer use, improper computer use, and criminal misuse. Computer abuse, although not illegal, points to moral issues of concern for society as a whole. This refers to legal but restricted web sites and activities belonging to subcultures that do not share traditional value structures that the general public adheres to. Due to the existence of these groups the information dimension has also been flooded with misuses such as sexually explicit material and sensitive information that, in my opinion, the general public should not have such easy access to. A few examples of Sensitive information are, access to bomb making blue prints, where to get materials for such a devise, and military tactical procedures that out line the process and positioning of such devises to create the most damage.
In the category of computer misuse, is the creation and deployment of viruses and software piracy. This renders all systems locked into malfunction mode and can cause permanent damage to a computers hard drive and or memory if at all the computer can be de-bugged from the virus in the first place.
More than $13 billion are lost world wide to software piracy. Software piracy refers to the bootlegging of software programs available for computers. Using software of this nature not only takes business away from the makers of the software, but it also, one, takes away from the original intentions and capabilities of the software, and two, provides a greater risk of passing a virus onto the computer it is applied to.
How, When, and Where Dose the Problem Occur?
In traditional criminal events, when one is looking for the roots or causation of any particular physical crime, the physical environment, social environment, psychological and mental capacity, and economics all play major roles. Likewise, physical crime happens in real time and in a physically tangible space. However, computer crime is more complicated in the sense that although real time measurements are used to record the transactions between computers, the location of the criminal offence is in cyberspace. Cyberspace is the computer produced matrix of virtual possibilities, including on line services, wherein human beings interact with each other and with technology it self .
Although physical environment, social environment, psychological and mental capacity, and economics are important factors in computer crimes, specific causation of computer crime has to be dealt with on a case by base study. What makes one person engage in computer crime can be different from what makes another person do the vary same criminal act. However, what remains the same in all computer crimes is the dependent use of modems, telephones, and some sort of unauthorized entrance into a government, commercial, or private data base system.
For example, on September 16, 1999 in Dallas, Texas, United States Attorney Paul E. Coggins was happy to report that, due to aggressive investigations done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and later prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Yarbrough, Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell were sentenced in federal court by Chief District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer. Criminal conviction on the two was handed down for selling stolen long distance calling card numbers that were illegally obtained by hacking into computer systems of Sprint Corporation, Southwestern Bell and GTE. Calvin Cantrell, age 30, of Grand Prairie, Texas, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and ordered to pay $10,000 to the victimized corporations and Corey Lindsly, age 32, of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced to forty-one months imprisonment and ordered to pay $10,000 to the victimized corporations.
Through investigations Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell were identified as two major ringleaders in a computer hacker organization known as the Phone Masters. This group of hackers, very professionally, structured their attacks on the computers through teleconferencing and made use of encryption program PGP to hide the data that they exchanged with each other. In addition to the crimes that Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell were convicted for, further evidence showed that the group had also infiltrated computer systems owned by utility providers, credit reporting agencies, and systems owned by state and federal governmental agencies including the Nation Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer. The definitive mission of the Phone Masters organization was to one day take control of all telecommunications infrastructures in the nation.

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In the Phone Masters example, an on line social environment, psychological and mental capacity, and economic gain were underlying factors in the causation of the criminal acts that Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell ended up plead guilty to. In this example economic gain was the centerpiece of motivation. However, economic gain is not always a reason for computer crime. Sometimes people, particularly younger people between the ages of 12 to 35, partake in computer crime due to a lack of power or control in their real lives. These people then turn to the electronic realm as an alternative to the real world so they can over come feelings of personal inferiority by challenging machines. These people develop self worth and acknowledgment for their criminal actions from the peers of their subculture. Research found that these people refer to themselves as cyber punks and they roam independently or in groups through cyberspace in search for vulnerable systems much like street gangs in search for likely victims or opportunity to partake in any criminal action just for kicks.
For example in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 18, 1998, Federal criminal charges were brought upon a juvenile computer hacker. According to United States Attorney Donald K. Stern and Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Johnston of the U.S. Secret Service, in March of 1997, in two separate accessions, the defendant deployed a series of commands from the his personal computer at home. These virus like commands made a necessary telephone company computer shut down and in turn killed telephone communications to the Worcester airport. This caused vital services to the FAA control tower to be disabled for a total of twelve hours. He deployed the first series of commands at 9:00 am. Emergency teams scrambled franticly for six hours until they we able to temporarily fix the malfunction, but only to have in knocked down again by the defendant just as soon as it was fixed. He deployed his second series of commands at 3:00 PM. It was 9:00 PM when the Worcester airport and its surrounding communities were able to set up telephone communications again.
In the course of the investigation done by the U.S. Secret Service additional evidence showed that the defendant also electronically broke into a pharmacists computer in a Worcester area pharmacy store and copied patient records. This information was accessible by modem after hours when the pharmacy was closed so that their headquarter offices could update patient records at anytime. Even though the juvenile was in a view only program and could not alter the prescriptions, and no evidence was found that he dispersed the information, this was still viewed as a serious invasion of privacy and the nature of his actions were found to be criminal.
In result to a plea-bargained decision the juvenile received two years’ probation, ordered to complete 250 hours of community service, must pay restitution to the telephone company, and in addition, he was made to surrender all of the computer equipment used during his criminal activity. Further more, during his sentence he may not possess, use, or buy a modem or any other means of remote accessing of computers or computer networks directly or indirectly. According to the Department of Justice the charges in this particular case are vitally important because they are the first ever to have been brought against a juvenile by the federal government for commission of a computer crime. The juvenile was not publicly named due to federal laws concerning juvenile cases.
A Realistic Theory For the Future Prevention of Computer Crime
Hollinger suggested that computer crime is relatively new as compared to part-one index crimes. It is often seen as a method or a medium in which to commit particular types of crimes rather than a crime all to its self. Furthermore, because most computer crimes are executed in a non-violent manner the public unwittingly views it as a crime of less seriousness than one that involves violence. However, even if they are committed in a non-violent way, on average hackers cost the private companies and government agencies world wide billions of dollars every year. The consumers and the taxpayers are the ones left to make up the losses in the long run. Whether violence was used in these offences or not it is surely evident as to why this phenomenon concerns us all.
The problem with dealing with computer crime is that most of it is reactive instead of proactive. Also affecting the way we combat computer crime is the way that society views it and the way society punishes offenders. To me, it appears that the efforts against computer crime are following a historical view of policing and crime fighting where a lot of emphasis was put on law enforcement, dealing with the offender after the crime has been committed, instead of community cohesion, trying to set up community based organizations to try a raise awareness and impact the criminal behavior before in turns to criminal activity. The evolution that policing has gone through over the years, from enforcement to prevention, should provide as a good model to follow in preventing and dealing with computer crime instead of just reacting to it.
This prevention approach would most successful if done in three parts. Part one would involve the media, the government, and businesses or groups that have fallen victims to hackers in the past. Even though the media is often accused of damaging public perception on issues, it can also be use to help shift or steer public perception in the right direction. The medias responsibility would be to bring the public interest message to the masses through the use of TV and radio commercials, newspaper writing, pamphlets, highway billboards, internet posting, mailing list, and series or public lectures or conferences. Primarily, the victimized companies and groups along with the government agencies involved in the pursuit and conviction of the offenders would compose the message that media would be delivering. The message would entail an appropriate perspective on computer crime, examples of what attitudes society should or should not have toward computer crime, examples or a view of the many government agencies that are on the front line of the computer crime battlefield, and finally a heightened uniform guideline for the punishment of computer crime.
Part two of my computer crime prevention approach would involve taking away much if not all the discretion involved in the sentencing of people convicted of computer crime. I feel that because the outcomes of computer crime could can so financially detrimental, instilling harsh mandatory uniform sentencing guild lines should be enacted. This would let the offenders know that the public will not tolerate computer criminal activity and not to expect leniency if convicted of computer crimes. This method of sentencing is not liked by many judges because it takes away from their judicial powers and dose not allow the judge to decide what he/she think is best for the community, district, city, or state they preside over. Hackers like it even less because it ensures their fait if caught and convicted of computer crime. Part three would simply be the reinforcement of part two and provide that the punishment for computer criminals be harsher and involve more time in a federal prison then the average sentence being handed down today for computer crime offenses. A perfect example of the way this three-part method of dealing with computer crime works is in the similar approach used in Project Exile where the media helps push the idea that the government will automatically give people five years in a federal institution, added to the sentence of any other crime they may be found guilty for, if they are found in possession of an illegal handgun. Project Exile has helped drastically cut the numbers of people carrying and using illegal handguns and a similar Project for computer crime would, in my opinion, have similar results in impacting existing computer criminals and deter would-be hackers from partaking in computer crime.
h Hollinger, R. ; Kaduce, L . (1988). “The Process of Criminalization: The Case of
Computer Crime Laws.” Minneapolise/St. Paul: West Publishing. Pg. 101-126.
h Schamalleger, F. (1999). Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction, 2nd ed.,
New Jersey: Providence Hall, Upper Saddle River.

h, U.S. Department of Justice, 2001
h, BBC News, 2001