As much as $40 billion are lost every year due to flourishing computer crimes. In 1993 alone, Internet, the world wide system of computer networks, was swindled out of approximately $2 billion, and about $50 million were stolen from various companies such as GTE Corp., AT&T, Bell Atlantic and MCI ( Meyer and Underwood 45). Ironically these same organizations have been collaborating with software manufacturers for an expanded software production ( Cook 53 ). Multinational corporations and international authorities are threatened by these innumerable white collar crimes since such crimes are most difficult to prevent, and/or detect and highly profitable to the offenders ( Stern and Stern 525 ). This ever growing menace to society is assisted by the sophisticated computer technology which has also provided invaluable benefits to mankind. For instance, the advanced computer networks have recently helped to save lives in a faraway Chinese province. From information received through the Internet, a Chinese doctor was able to treat a desperate 13 year old girl, Yang Xiaoxia, of a mysterious flesh eating disease which had also killed eleven people in Great Britain in 1994 ( Turner 54 ).
On the other hand, Internet has caused serious and unpreventable legal problems, as passwords can be very easily broken, ideas stolen and wrong doings very difficult, if not impossible to trace ( Meyer and Underwood 44 ). For example hackers in Florida can pass comfortably through another computer in Finland, where they can strip any name and address, and move on to still another computer in Asia, where such piracy is not considered a serious crime ( Meyer and Underwood 45 ). For instance, 25% of computer software is considered pirated in the U.S., (Internet of course making things easy since you could send even large length programs to another user through E-mail) while in China, the rate goes up to 98%. In 1994 only, companies estimated to have lost $8 billion due to piracy ( Hall and Vancura 108 ).
How to Prosecute Offenders?
Furthermore, Internet Frauds are very difficult to prevent because a long time is required for most of them to be discovered. For instance, law enforcers need not only at least equal scientific and technical ability as the offenders, but also precious time and energy to examine company books and accounts to unravel such crimes ( Croal 14 ). It is also felt that prosecution is often incorrect and counter productive (Southerland 85). When the crimes are uncovered, the laws are too vague and too limited for proper prosecution ( Stern & Stern 528 ). The complexity of Internet fraud makes it very difficult for legislators to estimate the extent to such offenses, thus leaving many loopholes to be exploited by alert offenders. Moreover,
Internet “offenses and offenders do appear to enjoy structural advantages, and the outcome of the policies pursued by law enforcers is that many avoid public prosecution and punishment” ( Croal 91).
Furthermore, it is widely believed that so little has been done to prevent such computer crimes although adequate defensive technology is available for such prevention because computer owners and governments are arrogant and apathetic ( Schwartau 313-314 ). Nevertheless, at some point in the very near future, they will not afford any longer to be so. Even now, there are many debates going on in almost every country on whether of not this information highway should be censored or not. By censorship, I do not only mean material that is pornographic or such, but also certain information that is not really supposed to be exposed. Certainly though on the other hand, since we are supposed to be free citizens, information is not supposed to be kept from us since it is our right to know. As you can see, this debate is endless.
In addition to the enormous difficulty in its prevention, Internet fraud is even more difficult to detect. One reason is that the police do not use the detection programs efficiently eventhough such programs are regularly updated. Another reason for failure is that officers are not trained to work with non-print methods. According to senior FLETC Legal Division instructor, these detection programs are alien to law enforcement because “ cops have always followed a paper trail, and now there might not be one “ ( Sussman 56 ). When certain frauds are able to be done, it is the hackers pathos to find a way to do it. Not all frauds are done to obtain a tangible benefit. Most hackers or computer freaks do so just to say that they did it. It is a matter of self fulfillment. Needless to say, victims must also report crimes promptly. At present, organizations, such as financial institutions, are reluctant to report such crimes ( Stern & Stern 525 ). This is due to the fact that they are afraid of either admitting that they have been robbed or to protect their public image. Consequently though, it is far too difficult for law enforcers to go after the criminals since :
- How are they to be caught if they are not reported?
- How are they to be caught if the crime is not reported promptly?
- By the time it is, the criminal has probably “ disappeared “.
Finally, there seems to be no end for Internet fraud in sight because it is highly profitable. Ironically, this same package assists teachers in teaching various subjects in school curriculums ( Gill 200 ).
One could say that Internet fraud is a part of or is at least related with many other types of crimes, primarily white collar crimes, piracy, illegal program sharing, illegal copies of programs and games…. the list goes on and on. Everyone knows that when any child purchases a game from his neighborhood computer shop and instead of paying 5000 Drs. for the original game made by the manufacturer, he/she could buy the same game, with almost identically the same quality for 2000 Drs. from the copy that the computer shop owner has made. This is not actually an Internet fraud in the sense that you could achieve this even without having access to the Internet. This is true but Internet can be used as a mean here. For instance, games and programs, as mentioned previously can be copied or sent to others with the use of Internet. In any case it is illegal, yet everyone knows about it. the actual problem is what we could do about it?
Moreover many of these Internet frauds are simply users sharing programs and games. It is estimated that ten illegal copies of a software program are made for every one copy legally sold ( Stern and Stern 527 ). Studies also show that white collar criminals average $100000 per crime in comparison to the ordinary bank robber who only steals $1600 on a hold up ( Stern and Stern 525 ). These studies though are most likely to be incorrect since companies as mentioned previously are reluctant to report all such white collar crimes involving their organizations. Reasons notes an example:
… whereas as employee who embezzles from the employer is guilty of a white collar offense, the same employee may also be involved in price fixing or misleading advertising as part of the policies, practices, and/or procedures of the organization. In the latter offenses, the white collar offender is carrying our organizational goals. ( Wick and Dailey 59 ).
The costly problems of Internet fraud will become worse and worse if they are not quickly dealt with.
Some possible actions may be:
- Laws can be made clearer and stricter
- Companies greater security to protect products
- Companies willingness to report illegal matters
- We ourselves should not use illegally obtained data
- We should not deal with countries that either ignore or encourage such
- People should be better educated on the dangers of the Internet from a young age.
What is being implied here is not that we should get rid of the Internet as to not to have such frauds. Doubtless, the Internet is a huge benefit towards progress, unification, and to mankind in general. Nevertheless, just like most of the things in our world, it is also dangerous in the sense that these same benefits that it provides to us, can be provided to individuals that do not have the best intention in mind. Thus what we as simple users could do is just to be careful.
- Cook, J. William. “Shifting into the Fast Lane”. U.S. News & World Report Jan. 23, 1995.
- Croal, Hazel. White Collar – Criminal Justice and Criminology. Buckingham-Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1992.
- Gill, K. S. Artificial Intelligence for Society. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1986.
- Hall, Cindy and Vancoura, Cliff. “Booting up Bootleg Software.” USA Today April 12, 1995.
- Meyer, Michael with Underwood, Anne. “Crimes of the Net.” NEWSWEEK Nov. 14, 1994.
- Schwartau, Winn. Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994.
- Stern, Nancy and Stern, Robert. Computing in the Information Age. U.S.: John Wiley and Sons, 1993.
- Sussman, Vic. “Policing Cyberspace.” U.S. News & World Report Jan. 23, 1995.
- Sutherland, Edwin H. White Collar Crime. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1983.
- Turner, Mia. “ A Web for Masses.” TIME April 10, 1995.
- Wick, Peter and Dailey, Timothy. White Collar and Economic Crime. Mass.-Toronto: Lexington Books, 1982.