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Delving Into Computer Crime

.. f destroying computer data. Although the system as a whole might be devastated, the data can sometimes be restored through special techniques. Crimes using computers are more prevalent. There are numerous crimes that can be committed using computer, but they are not new crimes.

The crimes were already in practice before it’s invention but new technology makes them easier to commit and provides less of a chance of getting caught. Money is the root of a lot of crimes, for instance, embezzlement is “the act of stealing money that is entrusted to you”(1), or stealing from somebody that you work for. Banks are one of the best places to steal money from because, obviously, that’s where a large portion of money can be found. A great deal of the money that a bank oversees is not physical cash; it is numbers in computers. Many different and ingenious ways have been developed by computer criminals to embezzle money.

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The simplest form is to electronically transfer funds from someone’s account into your own. The possibility of being caught doing this is very high because it is noticeable and traceable. A method of embezzling called “The Salami Technique”(2) involves slicing small amounts off of many different accounts (instead of just one big transfer) that won’t be noticed and putting the accumulating totals into one’s own account. There is also a “round-off” technique where the amounts taken for oneself from each account are fractional and would otherwise kept by the bank as “round-off errors”, such as 3/10th of a cent but the small amounts build up over time. This can all be done with a patch or block of programming code added to the banks’ accounting program during a single session.

After the program is installed (or patched), all the criminal has to do is sit and wait. The program can be activated by an internal timer being set for a certain date and time. Fraud broadens the computer criminals havoc-reeking horizons and is defined as “intentional deception”(2). Computers are probably the best means for trickery, especially through the Internet. When an individual logs onto the Internet through and ISP (Internet Service Provider), the only identity they are given is an IP (Internet Protocol) address.

Nobody knows anything about the person using that terminal. They can fabricate any information they choose. Fraud includes, but is not limited to, creation of false accounts, using any accounts for which you are not entitled to use, destruction of records, et cetera. The theft of information has also become a large problem in attempts to protect privacy. Many corporations and government organizations have extensive databases on a great deal of people.

Information such as age, race, sex, social security number, address, telephone number, credit card information, and basically anything that has ever been known about a person is electronically stored and kept for reference. The problem with this data being stored electronically is that if the system is compromised, the data can be copied and stolen very quickly and can possibly be stolen over telecommunication lines. Phreaking is a kind of theft of services. Phreaking a process used to “access the telephone services illegally and run up considerable calling bills for which they are never charged”(2). Using different tones, a computer can mock a request for a long-distance call, giving an individual free long-distance. Cyberstalking, defined as “The act or crime of willfully and repeatedly harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death because of expressed or implied threats”(1), is a relatively new problem.

Irritating others over the Internet is something that commonly occurs, but the word “repeatedly” placed in front of that statement can make a big difference. If someone is causing a nescience that interferes with ones’ professional or personal life it is considered stalking. Catching the computer criminals is the tough part. There are “Computer Crime Stopper” groups, hackers turned good, whose sole purpose and occupation is to track down and catch computer criminals. Tracking computer activity is a hard thing to do, especially over the Internet. There is no “trail” left for the criminal to be followed by. Usually the only thing crime-stoppers have to go on are the IP addresses and telecommunication lines to trace to find the origin of the signal, but the perpetrator is normally long gone by the time authorities arrive. Prevention is a crucial part in protecting the computers of today.

Through secure servers, which are “special computers [that] provide secure connections between networked computers and outside systems,”(4) companies protect credit card and other personal information of their clients. Encryption is a method of “encoding”(4) data using a set of key (a mathematical formula), which is then sent to the receiving party. They have the “decoding”(4) key to transform the data back into understandable data. Encryption works very well, as long as the key doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Firewalls, “a safety computer placed between a network and outside systems”(4), can deter break-ins from external systems using usernames and passwords, but as we know they can be cracked with some effort.

The current laws and regulations against crime do not apply to computer crimes. Although some laws are twisted and contorted to apply to new situations as they arise, I feel that new legislation needs to be put into place to apply to the crimes and criminals. Cyberstalking is a good example of a computer crime that needs it’s own legislation to govern what is to be considered stalking and what are not over the Internet. Stalking without a computer is clearly defined, both what stalking is and what the penalties are for committing it, but communication over the Internet isn’t as clearly regulated. Are 2 E-Mail’s to a person that didn’t want them considered stalking, and if so then why isn’t unwanted E-Mail from organizations considered soliciting? Statues need to be presented to clearly outline what is wrong and what is okay. Instead of trying to apply unrelated laws to fast-growing criminal opportunities, we should establish a basis for which all computer crimes can be tried and prosecuted. “It has been said that the Internet is the first empirically lawless domain of modern life.

Even with the most carefully crafted legislation, enforcing a law in a virtual community creates unique problems never before faced by law enforcement agencies.”(6). Since the “means” of committing the crimes is different, should we consider different punishments? In the past, convicted computer criminals have served generally light terms for their crimes. Shouldn’t embezzlement done by a machine, which a human caused it to do, be the same as embezzlement done directly by the hands of a human? I guess one could say that we are lucky that ALL crimes can’t be committed over a computer, at least not yet. Computers and Internet.


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