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    Computers and Crime Essay

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    Computers and CrimeComputers are used to track reservations for the airline industry,process billions of dollars for banks, manufacture products for industry, andconduct major transactions for businesses because more and more people now havecomputers at home and at the office. People commit computer crimes because of society’s declining ethicalstandards more than any economic need. According to experts, gender is the onlybias.

    The profile of today’s non-professional thieves crosses all races, agegroups and economic strata. Computer criminals tend to be relatively honest andin a position of trust: few would do anything to harm another human, and mostdo not consider their crime to be truly dishonest. Most are males: women havetended to be accomplices, though of late they are becoming more aggressive. Computer Criminals tend to usually be “between the ages of 14-30, they areusually bright, eager, highly motivated, adventuresome, and willing to accepttechnical challenges. “(Shannon, 16:2) “It is tempting to liken computercriminals to other criminals, ascribing characteristics somehow different from’normal’ individuals, but that is not the case.

    “(Sharp, 18:3) It is believedthat the computer criminal “often marches to the same drum as the potentialvictim but follows and unanticipated path. “(Blumenthal, 1:2) There is no actualprofile of a computer criminal because they range from young teens to elders,from black to white, from short to tall. Definitions of computer crime has changed over the years as the usersand misusers of computers have expanded into new areas. “When computers werefirst introduced into businesses, computer crime was defined simply as a form ofwhite-collar crime committed inside a computer system. “(2600:Summer 92,p. 13)Some new terms have been added to the computer criminal vocabulary.

    “Trojan Horse is a hidden code put into a computer program. Logic bombs areimplanted so that the perpetrator doesn’t have to physically present himself orherself. ” (Phrack 12,p. 43)Another form of a hidden code is “salamis. ” Itcame from the big salami loaves sold in delis years ago.

    Often people wouldtake small portions of bites that were taken out of them and then they weresecretly returned to the shelves in the hopes that no one would notice themmissing. (Phrack 12,p. 44)Congress has been reacting to the outbreak of computer crimes. “The U.

    S. House of Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan computer crime bill that wasexpanded to make it a federal crime to hack into credit and other data basesprotected by federal privacy statutes. “(Markoff, B 13:1)This bill isgenerally creating several categories of federal misdemeanor felonies forunauthorized access to computers to obtain money, goods or services orclassified information. This also applies to computers used by the federalgovernment or used in interstate of foreign commerce which would cover anysystem accessed by interstate telecommunication systems. “Computer crime often requires more sophistications than people realizeit.

    “(Sullivan, 40:4)Many U. S. businesses have ended up in bankruptcy courtunaware that they have been victimized by disgruntled employees. Americanbusinesses wishes that the computer security nightmare would vanish like a fairytale.

    Information processing has grown into a gigantic industry. “It accountedfor $33 billion in services in 1983, and in 1988 it was accounted to be $88billion. ” (Blumenthal, B 1:2)All this information is vulnerable to greedy employees, nosy-teenagersand general carelessness, yet no one knows whether the sea of computer crimes is”only as big as the Gulf of Mexico or as huge as the North Atlantic. “(Blumenthal,B 1:2) Vulnerability is likely to increase in the future.

    And bythe turn of the century, “nearly all of the software to run computers will bebought from vendors rather than developed in houses, standardized software willmake theft easier. ” (Carley, A 1:1)A two-year secret service investigation code-named Operation Sun-Devil,targeted companies all over the United States and led to numerous seizures. Critics of Operation Sun-Devil claim that the Secret Service and the FBI, whichhave almost a similar operation, have conducted unreasonable search and seizures,they disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many people, and generally conductedthemselves in an unconstitutional manner. “My whole life changed because ofthat operation.

    They charged me and I had to take them to court. I have tothank 2600 and Emmanuel Goldstein for publishing my story. I owe a lot to thefellow hackers and fellow hackers and the Electronic Frontier Foundation forcoming up with the blunt of the legal fees so we could fight for our rights. “(Interview with Steve Jackson, fellow hacker, who was charged in operation SunDevil) The case of Steve Jackson Games vs. Secret Service has yet to come to averdict yet but should very soon.

    The secret service seized all of SteveJackson’s computer materials which he made a living on. They charged that hemade games that published information on how to commit computer crimes. He wasbeing charged with running a underground hack system. “I told them it was only agame and that I was angry and that was the way that I tell a story. I neverthought Hacker Steve Jackson’s game would cause such a problem. My biggestproblem was that they seized the BBS (Bulletin Board System) and because of thatI had to make drastic cuts, so we laid of eight people out of 18.

    If the SecretService had just come with a subpoena we could have showed or copied every filein the building for them. “(Steve Jackson Interview)Computer professionals are grappling not only with issues of free speechand civil liberties, but also with how to educate the public and the media tothe difference between on-line computer experimenters. They also point out that,while the computer networks and the results are a new kind of crime, they areprotected by the same laws and freedom of any real world domain. “A 14-year old boy connects his home computer to a television line, andtaps into the computer at his neighborhood bank and regularly transfers moneyinto his personnel account.

    “(2600:Spring 93,p. 19)On paper and on screens apopular new mythology is growing quickly in which computer criminals are the’Butch Cassidys’ of the electronic age. “These true tales of computer capersare far from being futuristic fantasies. “(2600:Spring 93:p. 19) They areinspired by scores of real life cases. Computer crimes are not just crimesagainst the computer, but it is also against the theft of money, information,software, benefits and welfare and many more.

    “With the average damage from a computer crime amounting to about $. 5million, sophisticated computer crimes can rock the industry. “(Phrack 25,p. 6)Computer crimes can take on many forms. Swindling or stealing of money is oneof the most common computer crime.

    An example of this kind of crime is the WellFargo Bank that discovered an employee was using the banks computer to embezzle$21. 3 million, it is the largest U. S. electronic bank fraud on record. (Phrack23,p.

    46)Credit Card scams are also a type of computer crime. This is one thatfears many people and for good reasons. A fellow computer hacker that goes bythe handle of Raven is someone who uses his computer to access credit data bases. In a talk that I had with him he tried to explain what he did and how he did it. He is a very intelligent person because he gained illegal access to a creditdata base and obtained the credit history of local residents.

    He then allegedlyuses the residents names and credit information to apply for 24 Mastercards andVisa cards. He used the cards to issue himself at least 40,000 in cash from anumber of automatic teller machines. He was caught once but was onlywithdrawing $200 and in was a minor larceny and they couldn’t prove that he wasthe one who did the other ones so he was put on probation. “I was 17 and Ineeded money and the people in the underground taught me many things.

    I wouldnot go back and not do what I did but I would try not to get caught next time. I am the leader of HTH (High Tech Hoods) and we are currently devising otherways to make money. If it weren’t for my computer my life would be nothing likeit is today. “(Interview w/Raven)”Finally, one of the thefts involving the computer is the theft ofcomputer time. Most of us don’t realize this as a crime, but the congressconsider this as a crime. “(Ball,V85) Everyday people are urged to use thecomputer but sometimes the use becomes excessive or improper or both.

    Forexample, at most colleges computer time is thought of as free-good students andfaculty often computerizes mailing lists for their churches or fraternityorganizations which might be written off as good public relations. But, use ofthe computers for private consulting projects without payment of the universityis clearly improper. In business it is the similar. Management often looks the other waywhen employees play computer games or generate a Snoopy calendar. But, if thisbecomes excessive the employees is stealing work time. And computers can onlyprocess only so many tasks at once.

    Although considered less severe than othercomputer crimes such activities can represent a major business loss. “While most attention is currently being given to the criminal aspectsof computer abuses, it is likely that civil action will have an equallyimportant effect on long term security problems. “(Alexander, V119)The issueof computer crimes draw attention to the civil or liability aspects in computingenvironments. In the future there may tend to be more individual and classaction suits.

    CONCLUSIONComputer crimes are fast and growing because the evolution of technologyis fast, but the evolution of law is slow. While a variety of states havepassed legislation relating to computer crime, the situation is a nationalproblem that requires a national solution. Controls can be instituted withinindustries to prevent such crimes. Protection measures such as hardwareidentification, access controls software and disconnecting critical bankapplications should be devised.

    However, computers don’t commit crimes; peopledo. The perpetrator’s best advantage is ignorance on the part of thoseprotecting the system. Proper internal controls reduce the opportunity forfraud. BIBLIOGRAPHYAlexander, Charles, “Crackdown on Computer Capers,”Time, Feb. 8, 1982, V119.

    Ball, Leslie D. , “Computer Crime,” Technology Review,April 1982, V85. Blumenthal,R. “Going Undercover in the Computer Underworld”. New York Times, Jan. 26, 1993, B, 1:2.

    Carley, W. “As Computers Flip, People Lose Grip in Saga of Sabatoge at Printing Firm”. Wall Street Journal, Aug. 27, 1992, A, 1:1. Carley, W. “In-House Hackers: Rigging Computers for Fraud or Malice Is Often an Inside Job”.

    Wall Street Journal,Aug 27, 1992, A, 7:5. Markoff, J. “Hackers Indicted on Spy Charges”. New York Times, Dec. 8, 1992, B, 13:1. Finn, Nancy and Peter, “Don’t Rely on the Law to Stop Computer Crime,” Computer World, Dec.

    19, 1984, V18. Phrack Magazine issues 1-46. Compiled by Knight Lightning and Phiber Optik. Shannon, L R. “THe Happy Hacker”. New York Times, Mar.

    21, 1993, 7, 16:2. Sharp, B. “The Hacker Crackdown”. New York Times, Dec.

    20, 1992, 7, 18:3. Sullivan, D. “U. S. Charges Young Hackers”. New York Times, Nov.

    15, 1992, 1, 40:4. 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Issues Summer 92-Spring 93. Compiled by Emmanuel Goldstein.

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