Number And Types Of Computer Crimes

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Over the last twenty years, a technological revolution hasoccurred as computers are now an essential element of today’ssociety. Large computers are used to track reservations for theairline industry, process billions of dollars for banks,manufacture products for industry, and conduct major transactionsfor businesses because more and more people now have computers athome and at the office.

People commit computer crimes because of society’s decliningethical standards more than any economic need. According toexperts, gender is the only bias. The profile of today’snon-professional thieves crosses all races, age groups andeconomic strata. Computer criminals tend to be relatively honestand in a position of trust: few would do anything to harm anotherhuman, and most do not consider their crime to be trulydishonest. Most are males: women have tended to be accomplices,though of late they are becoming more aggressive. ComputerCriminals tend to usually be “between the ages of 14-30, they areusually bright, eager, highly motivated, adventuresome, andwilling to accept technical challenges.”(Shannon, 16:2)”

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It is tempting to liken computer criminals to other criminals,ascribing characteristics somehow different from’normal’ individuals, but that is not the case.”(Sharp, 18:3) Itis believed that the computer criminal “often marches to the samedrum as the potential victim but follows and unanticipatedpath.”(Blumenthal, 1:2)

There is no actual profile of a computercriminal because they range from young teens to elders, fromblack to white, from short to tall. Definitions of computer crime has changed over the years as theusers and misusers of computers have expanded into new areas. “When computers were first introduced into businesses, computercrime was defined simply as a form of white-collar crimecommitted inside a computer system.”(2600:Summer 92,p.13)

Some new terms have been added to the computer criminalvocabulary. “Trojan Horse is a hidden code put into a computerprogram. Logic bombs are implanted so that the perpetratordoesn’t have to physically present himself or herself.” (Phrack12,p.43) Another form of a hidden code is “salamis.” It came fromthe big salami loaves sold in delis years ago. Often people wouldtake small portions of bites that were taken out of them and thenthey were secretly returned to the shelves in the hopes that noone would notice them missing.(Phrack 12,p.44)

Congress has been reacting to the outbreak of computer crimes. “The U.S. House of Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisancomputer crime bill that was expanded to make it a federalcrime to hack into credit and other data bases protected byfederal privacy statutes.”(Markoff, B 13:1)

This bill isgenerally creating several categories of federal misdemeanorfelonies for unauthorized access to computers to obtain money,goods or services or classified information. This also applies tocomputers used by the federal government or used in interstate offoreign commerce which would cover any system accessed byinterstate telecommunication systems. “Computer crime often requires more sophistications than peoplerealize it.”(Sullivan, 40:4)

Many U.S. businesses have ended upin bankruptcy court unaware that they have been victimized bydisgruntled employees. American businesses wishes that thecomputer security nightmare would vanish like a fairy tale. Information processing has grown into a gigantic industry. “Itaccounted for $33 billion in services in 1983, and in 1988 it wasaccounted to be $88 billion.” (Blumenthal, B 1:2)

All this information is vulnerable to greedy employees, nosy-teenagers and general carelessness, yet no one knows whether thesea of computer crimes is “only as big as the Gulf of Mexico oras huge as the North Atlantic.” (Blumenthal,B 1:2) Vulnerabilityis likely to increase in the future. And by the turn of thecentury, “nearly all of the software to run computers will bebought from vendors rather than developed in houses, standardizedsoftware will make 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 tonumerous seizures. Critics of Operation Sun-Devil claim that theSecret Service and the FBI, which have almost a similaroperation, have conducted unreasonable search and seizures, theydisrupted the lives and livelihoods of many people, and generallyconducted themselves in an unconstitutional manner. “My wholelife changed because of that operation. They charged me and I hadto take them to court. I have to thank 2600 and EmmanuelGoldstein for publishing my story. I owe a lot to the fellowhackers and fellow hackers and the Electronic Frontier Foundationfor coming up with the blunt of the legal fees so we could fightfor our rights.” (Interview with Steve Jackson, fellow hacker,who was charged in operation Sun Devil)

The case of Steve JacksonGames vs. Secret Service has yet to come to a verdict yet butshould very soon. The secret service seized all of SteveJackson’s computer materials which he made a living on. Theycharged that he made games that published information on how tocommit computer crimes. He was being charged with running aunderground 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 neverthought Hacker [Steve Jackson’s game] would cause such a problem.

My biggest problem was that they seized the BBS (Bulletin BoardSystem) and because of that I had to make drastic cuts, so welaid of eight people out of 18. If the Secret Service had justcome with a subpoena we could have showed or copied every file inthe building for them.”(Steve Jackson Interview)

Computer professionals are grappling not only with issues of freespeech and civil liberties, but also with how to educate thepublic and the media to the difference between on-line computerexperimenters. They also point out that, while the computernetworks 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 televisionline, and taps into the computer at his neighborhood bank andregularly transfers money into his personnel account.”(2600:Spring 93,p.19)

On paper and on screens a popular newmythology is growing quickly in which computer criminals are the’Butch Cassidys’ of the electronic age. “These true tales ofcomputer capers are far from being futuristic fantasies.”(2600:Spring 93:p.19) They are inspired by scores of real lifecases. Computer crimes are not just crimes against 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$.5 million, sophisticated computer crimes can rock theindustry.”(Phrack 25,p.6)

Computer crimes can take on manyforms. Swindling or stealing of money is one of the most commoncomputer crime. An example of this kind of crime is the WellFargo Bank that discovered an employee was using the bankscomputer to embezzle $21.3 million, it is the largest U.S. electronic bank fraud on record. (Phrack 23,p.46)

Credit Card scams are also a type of computer crime. This is onethat fears many people and for good reasons. A fellow computerhacker that goes by the handle of Raven is someone who useshis computer to access credit data bases. In a talk that I hadwith him he tried to explain what he did and how he did it. He isa very intelligent person because he gained illegal access to acredit data base and obtained the credit history of localresidents. He then allegedly uses the residents names and creditinformation to apply for 24 Mastercards and Visa cards. He usedthe cards to issue himself at least 40,000 in cash from a numberof automatic teller machines.

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