A report discussing the proposition that computer crime has increaseddramatically over the last 10 years.Computer crime is generally defined as any crime accomplished through specialknowledge of computer technology. Increasing instances of white-collar crimeinvolve computers as more businesses automate and the information held by thecomputers becomes an important asset. Computers can also become objects of crimewhen they or their contents are damaged, for example when vandals attack thecomputer itself, or when a “computer virus” (a program capable of altering orerasing computer memory) is introduced into a computer system.As subjects of crime, computers represent the electronic environment in whichfrauds are programmed and executed; an example is the transfer of moneybalances in accounts to perpetrators’ accounts for withdrawal. Computers areinstruments of crime when they are used to plan or control such criminal acts.
Examples of these types of crimes are complex embezzlements that might occurover long periods of time, or when a computer operator uses a computer to stealor alter valuable information from an employer.Since the first cases were reported in 1958, computers have been used for mostkinds of crime, including fraud, theft, embezzlement, burglary, sabotage,espionage, murder, and forgery. One study of 1,500 computer crimes establishedthat most of them were committed by trusted computer users within businesses i.e.persons with the requisite skills, knowledge, access, and resources. Much ofknown computer crime has consisted of entering false data into computers.
Thismethod of computer crime is simpler and safer than the complex process ofwriting a program to change data already in the computer.Now that personal computers with the ability to communicate by telephone areprevalent in our society, increasing numbers of crimes have been perpetrated bycomputer hobbyists, known as “hackers,” who display a high level of technicalexpertise. These “hackers” are able to manipulate various communicationssystems so that their interference with other computer systems is hidden andtheir real identity is difficult to trace.
The crimes committed by most”hackers” consist mainly of simple but costly electronictrespassing, copyrighted-information piracy, and vandalism. There is alsoevidence that organised professional criminals have been attacking and usingcomputer systems as they find their old activities and environments beingAnother area of grave concern to both the operators and users of computersystems is the increasing prevalence of computer viruses. A computer virus isgenerally defined as any sort of destructive computer program, though the termis usually reserved for the most dangerous ones. The ethos of a computer virusis an intent to cause damage, “akin to vandalism on a small scale, or terrorismon a grand scale.” There are many ways in which viruses can be spread.
A viruscan be introduced to networked computers thereby infecting every computer on thenetwork or by sharing disks between computers. As more home users now haveaccess to modems, bulletin board systems where users may download software haveincreasingly become the target of viruses. Viruses cause damage by eitherattacking another file or by simply filling up the computer’s memory or by usingup the computer’s processor power. There are a number of different types ofviruses, but one of the factors common to most of them is that they all copythemselves (or parts of themselves). Viruses are, in essence, self-replicating.We will now consider a “pseudo-virus,” called a worm.
People in the computerindustry do not agree on the distinctions between worms and viruses. Regardless,a worm is a program specifically designed to move through networks. A worm mayhave constructive purposes, such as to find machines with free resources thatcould be more efficiently used, but usually a worm is used to disable or slowdown computers.
More specifically, worms are defined as, “computer virusprograms … which propagate on a computer network without the aid of anunwitting human accomplice. These programs move of their own volition based uponstored knowledge of the network structure.
“Another type of virus is the “Trojan Horse.” These viruses hide inside anotherseemingly harmless program and once the Trojan Horse program is used on thecomputer system, the virus spreads. One of the most famous virus types ofrecent years is the Time Bomb, which is a delayed action virus of some type.This type of virus has gained notoriety as a result of the Michelangelo virus.This virus was designed to erase the hard drives of people using IBM compatiblecomputers on the artist’s birthday.
Michelangelo was so prevalent that it waseven distributed accidentally by some software publishers when the softwaredevelopers’ computers became infected.SYSOPs must also worry about being liable to their users as a result of viruseswhich cause a disruption in service. Viruses can cause a disruption in serviceor service can be suspended to prevent the spread of a virus. If the SYSOP hasguaranteed to provide continuous service then any disruption in service couldresult in a breach of contract and litigation could ensue. However, contractprovisions could provide for excuse or deferral of obligation in the event ofThe first federal computer crime law, entitled the Counterfeit Access Device andComputer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, was passed in October of 1984.
The Actmade it a felony to knowingly access a computer without authorisation, or inexcess of authorisation, in order to obtain classified United States defence orforeign relations information with the intent or reason to believe that suchinformation would be used to harm the United States or to advantage a foreignThe act also attempted to protect financial data. Attempted access to obtaininformation from financial records of a financial institution or in a consumerfile of a credit reporting agency was also outlawed. Access to use, destroy,modify or disclose information found in a computer system, (as well as toprevent authorised use of any computer used for government business) was alsomade illegal. The 1984 Act had several shortcomings, and was revised in TheComputer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.Three new crimes were added to the 1986 Act.
These were a computer fraudoffence, modelled after federal mail and wire fraud statutes, an offence for thealteration, damage or destruction of information contained in a “federalinterest computer”, an offence for trafficking in computer passwords under someEven the knowing and intentional possession of a sufficient amount ofcounterfeit or unauthorised “access devices” is illegal. This statute has beeninterpreted to cover computer passwords “which may be used to access computersto wrongfully obtain things of value, such as telephone and credit cardBusiness crimes of all types are probably decreasing as a direct result ofincreasing automation. When a business activity is carried out with computerand communications systems, data are better protected against modification,destruction, disclosure, misappropriation, misrepresentation, and contamination.Computers impose a discipline on information workers and facilitate use ofalmost perfect automated controls that were never possible when these had to beapplied by the workers themselves under management edict.
Computer hardware andsoftware manufacturers are also designing computer systems and programs that areRecent U.S. legislation, including laws concerning privacy, credit card fraudand racketeering, provide criminal-justice agencies with tools to fightbusiness crime.
As of 1988, all but two states had specific computer-crime laws,and a federal computer-crime law (1986) deals with certain crimes involvingcomputers in different states and in government activities.There are no valid statistics about the extent of computer crime. Victims oftenresist reporting suspected cases, because they can lose more from embarrassment,lost reputation, litigation, and other consequential losses than from the actsthemselves.
Limited evidence indicates that the number of cases is rising eachyear because of the increasing number of computers in business applicationswhere crime has traditionally occurred. The largest recorded crimes involvinginsurance, banking, product inventories, and securities have resulted in lossesof tens of millions to billions of dollars and all these crimes were facilitatedBibliography:BibliographyBequai, August, Techno Crimes (1986).Mungo, Paul, and Clough, Bryan, Approaching Zero: The Extraordinary Underworldof Hackers, Phreakers, Virus Writers, and Keyboard Criminals (1993).Norman, Adrian R. D.
, Computer Insecurity (1983).Parker, Donn B., Fighting Computer Crime (1983).Dodd S. Griffith, The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986: A Measured Responseto a Growing Problem, 43 Vand. L.
Rev. 453, 455 (1990).