Increase In Computer CrimesComputer Crimes: Laws Must Be Pass To Address The Increase In Computer CrimesTHESIS: Laws must be passed to address the increase in the number and types ofcomputer crimes.
Over the last twenty years, a technological revolution has occurred as computersare now an essential element of today’s society. Large computers are used totrack reservations for the airline industry, process billions of dollars forbanks, manufacture products for industry, and conduct major transactions forbusinesses because more and more people now have computers at home and at theoffice.
People commit computer crimes because of society’s declining ethical standardsmore than any economic need. According to experts, gender is the only bias. Theprofile of today’s non-professional thieves crosses all races, age groups andeconomic strata. Computer criminals tend to be relatively honest and in aposition of trust: few would do anything to harm another human, and most do notconsider their crime to be truly dishonest. Most are males: women have tended tobe accomplices, though of late they are becoming more aggressive.
ComputerCriminals tend to usually be “between the ages of 14-30, they are usually bright,eager, highly motivated, adventuresome, and willing to accept technicalchallenges.”(Shannon, 16:2)”It is tempting to liken computer criminals to other criminals, ascribingcharacteristics 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 users andmisusers of computers have expanded into new areas. “When computers were firstintroduced 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. “TrojanHorse is a hidden code put into a computer program. Logic bombs are implanted sothat the perpetrator doesn’t have to physically present himself or herself.”(Phrack 12,p.43) Another form of a hidden code is “salamis.” It came from thebig salami loaves sold in delis years ago. Often people would take smallportions of bites that were taken out of them and then they were secretlyreturned 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. Houseof 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 is generallycreating several categories of federal misdemeanor felonies for unauthorizedaccess to computers to obtain money, goods or services or classified information.
This also applies to computers used by the federal government or used ininterstate of foreign commerce which would cover any system accessed byinterstate 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-teenagers andgeneral 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 by theturn of the century, “nearly all of the software to run computers will be boughtfrom vendors rather than developed in houses, standardized software will maketheft easier.” (Carley, A 1:1)A two-year secret service investigation code-named Operation Sun-Devil, targetedcompanies all over the United States and led to numerous seizures. Critics ofOperation Sun-Devil claim that the Secret Service and the FBI, which have almosta similar operation, have conducted unreasonable search and seizures, theydisrupted the lives and livelihoods of many people, and generally conductedthemselves in an unconstitutional manner. “My whole life changed because of thatoperation. They charged me and I had to take them to court. I have to thank 2600and Emmanuel Goldstein for publishing my story. I owe a lot to the fellowhackers and fellow hackers and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for coming upwith the blunt of the legal fees so we could fight for our rights.” (Interviewwith Steve Jackson, fellow hacker, who was charged in operation Sun Devil) Thecase of Steve Jackson Games vs. Secret Service has yet to come to a verdict yetbut should very soon. The secret service seized all of Steve Jackson’s computermaterials which he made a living on. They charged that he made games thatpublished information on how to commit computer crimes. He was being chargedwith running a underground hack system. “I told them it was only a game and thatI was angry and that was the way that I tell a story. I never thought HackerSteve Jackson’s game would cause such a problem. My biggest problem was thatthey seized the BBS (Bulletin Board System) and because of that I had to makedrastic cuts, so we laid of eight people out of 18. If the Secret Service hadjust come with a subpoena we could have showed or copied every file in thebuilding for them.”(Steve Jackson Interview)Computer professionals are grappling not only with issues of free speech andcivil liberties, but also with how to educate the public and the media to thedifference 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, and tapsinto the computer at his neighborhood bank and regularly transfers money intohis personnel account.”(2600:Spring 93,p.19) On paper and on screens a popularnew mythology is growing quickly in which computer criminals are the ‘ButchCassidys’ of the electronic age. “These true tales of computer capers are farfrom being futuristic fantasies.”(2600:Spring 93:p.19) They are inspired byscores of real life cases. Computer crimes are not just crimes against thecomputer, 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 $.5 million,sophisticated computer crimes can rock the industry.”(Phrack 25,p.6) Computercrimes can take on many forms. Swindling or stealing of money is one of the mostcommon computer crime. An example of this kind of crime is the Well Fargo Bankthat discovered an employee was using the banks computer to embezzle $21.3million, 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 that fears manypeople and for good reasons. A fellow computer hacker that goes by the handle ofRaven is someone who uses his computer to access credit data bases. In a talkthat I had with him he tried to explain what he did and how he did it. He is avery intelligent person because he gained illegal access to a credit data baseand obtained the credit history of local residents. He then allegedly uses theresidents names and credit information to apply for 24 Mastercards and Visacards. He used the cards to issue himself at least 40,000 in cash from a numberof automatic teller machines. He was caught once but was only withdrawing $200and in was a minor larceny and they couldn’t prove that he was the one who didthe other ones so he was put on probation. “I was 17 and I needed money and thepeople in the underground taught me many things. I would not go back and not dowhat 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 other ways to make money. If itweren’t for my computer my life would be nothing like it is today.”(Intervieww/Raven)”Finally, one of the thefts involving the computer is the theft of computer time.
Most of us don’t realize this as a crime, but the congress consider this as acrime.”(Ball,V85) Everyday people are urged to use the computer but sometimesthe use becomes excessive or improper or both. For example, at most collegescomputer time is thought of as free-good students and faculty often computerizesmailing lists for their churches or fraternity organizations which might bewritten off as good public relations. But, use of the computers for privateconsulting projects without payment of the university is clearly improper.
In business it is the similar. Management often looks the other way whenemployees 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 aspects ofcomputer abuses, it is likely that civil action will have an equally importanteffect on long term security problems.”(Alexander, V119) The issue of computercrimes 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 technology is fast,but the evolution of law is slow. While a variety of states have passedlegislation relating to computer crime, the situation is a national problem thatrequires a national solution. Controls can be instituted within industries toprevent such crimes. Protection measures such as hardware identification, accesscontrols software and disconnecting critical bank applications should be devised.
However, computers don’t commit crimes; people do. The perpetrator’s bestadvantage is ignorance on the part of those protecting the system. Properinternal controls reduce the opportunity for fraud.
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 PrintingFirm”. Wall Street Journal, Aug. 27, 1992, A, 1:1.
Carley, W. “In-House Hackers: Rigging Computers for Fraud or Malice Is Often anInside 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,” ComputerWorld, 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 GTechnology
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