Computer Crime

.. s seen in the $50-million-plus losses in the MCI case, a far greater threat to businesses than hackers are disgruntled and financially struggling employees. As internal theft from retail stores has always been many times greater in volume than theft from shoplifters, robbers, and burglars, theft by employees armed with inside information and computer access is and will continue to be a much larger problem than intrusion by hackers, crackers, and terrorists combined. By the turn of the century, 80% of Americans will process information as a major part of their employment, according to a United Way study. In addition, the future portends new and brighter for-profit invasion of business computers.

As one Justice Department official says, This technology in the hands of children today is technology that adults don’t understand. The first generation of computer-literate citizens will reach adulthood shortly after the turn of the century and will surely open a new age in the annals of crime and crime fighting. COMPUTER-STALKING One frightening type of computer criminal emerging rapidly is the cyberstalker. Possibly the most disturbing of these criminals is the pedophile that surfs computer bulletin boards, filled with bright young boys and girls, in search of victims. He develops a relationship and then seeks to meet the child in person to pursue his sexual intentions.

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Already recognized as a serious problem, cyberstalking has spawned the cybercop –a police officer assigned to computer bulletin boards in search of these pedophiles. Once a suspect is spotted, the cybercop plays the role of a naive youngster and makes himself or herself available for a meeting with the suspect in hopes of gaining evidence for an arrest. Also on the network, in search of pedophiles, are computer pornography sellers who offer magazine-quality color photographs of young boys and girls in a variety of sexually suggestive or actual sexual acts. Such a ring was broken up in 1994 and was found to have clients in several countries, with the pictures themselves transmitted from Denmark. Another type of stalker expected to be seen more in the future is the emotionally disturbed loner, seeking attention and companionship through the Internet, and who often becomes obsessed with a bulletin board friend.

If this person obtains personal information about the acquaintance, he or she sometimes seeks a close, often smothering relationship. If spurned, the stalker launches a campaign of harassment, moving into real-space harassment if adequate information is obtained. Vengeance can take many forms, from ruining credit records and charging multiple purchases to the victim to creating criminal records and sending letters to employers informing them of the shady background of the victim. In the twenty-first century, with access to the Internet available to all and information from data banks networked into dossiers reserved for official use only (but easily accessible to hackers and crackers), stalking will not only increase but be facilitated by a new generation of portable computers. Organic nanocomputers may one day be implanted in the human brain, making possible a new crime: mindstalking.

Unauthorized intrusion and seduction will reach directly into the victim’s brain, making the stalker harder to evade and even more difficult to escape. VIRTUAL CRIMES Stock and bond fraud is already appearing on the Internet–stocks and bonds that appear on the markets, are actively traded for a short time, and then disappear. The stocks and bonds are nonexistent; only the electronic impulses are real. In a recent case, a trader was paid $9 million in commissions for what appeared to be some $100 million in sales of bonds. But investigators now feel that these bonds may never have changed hands at all, except over the Internet.

In the future, a virtual-reality expert could create a hologram in the form of a respected stockbroker or real estate broker, then advise clients on the Internet to buy certain stocks, bonds, or real estate. Unsuspecting victims acting on the advice might later find that they had enlarged the coffers of the virtual-reality expert, while buying worthless or nonexistent properties. This is just the tip of the iceberg in what might be tagged as virtual crime–offenses based on a reality that only exists over the computer. As virtual reality becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is the young adults in the first decade of the twenty-first century who–having grown up with virtual reality–will create the software and determine the legal and criminal uses of this technology. And with virtual reality potentially reaching directly into the brains of recipients via organic computers, the ability to separate reality from the truth outside, will be one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EXPECTATIONS The outlook for curtailing computer crime by technology or conventional law-enforcement methods is bleak. Most agencies do not have the personnel or the skills to cope with such offenses, and to date all high-tech approaches have been met by almost immediate turnabouts by hackers or crackers. As individuals see and talk to each other over computers in the next few years, and as nanotechnology makes computers even more portable, new technology will emerge to protect data. But simplifying systems to make them more universally acceptable and accessible will also make them more vulnerable to intruders. Control of access by optical patterns, DNA identification, voice spectrographs, encryption, and other methods may slow down hackers, but no method is foolproof or presents much of a challenge to today’s most-talented hackers.

The trouble is that in the future many more users will have skills far beyond those of today’s crackers–a process one expert termed the democratization of computer crime. Still, there is much to be gained by easy access to the Internet. The cyberpunk imperatives, a code subscribed to many hackers, include: (1) information should be free so that the most capable can make the most of it; (2) the world will be better off if entrepreneurs can obtain any data necessary to provide needed or desired new products and services; and (3) decentralization of information protects us all from Big Brother. Computer crime probably cannot be controlled by conventional methods. Technology is on the side of the offender and motivation is high–it’s fun, exciting, challenging, and profitable. The only real help is one that has not proven very successful in recent decades: conscience and personal values, the belief that theft, deception, and invasion of privacy are simply unacceptable. Behavioral psychologists argue that all values are learned by a system of rewards and, to a lesser extent, punishment. Thus, if these values are necessary for survival, children should consciously be conditioned to live by them.

If all citizens–all computer users–were taught these values and sought to live by them, the Internet could become the wondrous and friendly place its creators have envisioned. Ironically, the greatest possible allies to be found in this search for values are the adolescent hackers of the 1980s, many of whom are the software programmers of the 1990s. In his book, Secrets of a Super-Hacker, a hacker named Knightmare says that true hackers love to break into systems and leave proof of their skills, but do not hurt individuals by stealing tangible goods or money, or destroying files or systems. Hacker ethics, Knightmare writes, include informing computer managers about problems with their security and offering to teach and share knowledge about computer security when asked. Increasingly, government and business computer managers are asking.

Many of the Fortune 500 companies and numerous government agencies have hired hackers to test their systems and even design new security protocols for them. Thus, hackers are helping to protect the information superhighway from crackers and terrorists. As one hacker says, Hackers love computers and they want the Net safe. In conclusion, computer crime is major part of our technological society and should be dealt with similarly to real crimes. In the electronic world, it is harder to find the criminal and track him/her down.

In the end, all advantages, such as using a computer, come with their disadvantages, computer crime in its worst form. Bibliography Works Cited Caryl, Christian. Reach out and rob someone. Russian V. Levin robs Citibank. U.S.

News & World Report April 1997: 58 Chidley, Joe. Cracking the Net. Maclean’s May 1995: 54-56. Gill, Mark Stuart. Cybercops take a byte out of computer crime.

Smithsonian May 1997: 114-116. Roush, Wade. Hackers taking a byte out of computer crime. Technology Review April 1995: 32-40 Sussman, Vic S. Policing cyberspace.

U.S. News & World Report Jan 1995: 54-60 Witkin, Gordon. Wanted, in cyberspace. U.S. News & World Report March 1994: 71 Computers and Internet Essays.


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