Computers and Crime


Computers are used to track reservations for the airline industry,
process billions of dollars for banks, manufacture products for industry, and
conduct major transactions for businesses because more and more people now have
computers at home and at the office.
People commit computer crimes because of society\'s declining ethical
standards more than any economic need. According to experts, gender is the only
bias. The profile of today\'s non-professional thieves crosses all races, age
groups and economic strata. Computer criminals tend to be relatively honest and
in a position of trust: few would do anything to harm another human, and most
do not consider their crime to be truly dishonest. Most are males: women have
tended to be accomplices, though of late they are becoming more aggressive.
Computer Criminals tend to usually be "between the ages of 14-30, they are
usually bright, eager, highly motivated, adventuresome, and willing to accept
technical challenges."(Shannon, 16:2) "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) It is believed
that the computer criminal "often marches to the same drum as the potential
victim but follows and unanticipated path."(Blumenthal, 1:2) There is no actual
profile 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
and misusers of computers have expanded into new areas. "When computers were
first introduced into businesses, computer crime was defined simply as a form of
white-collar crime committed inside a computer system."(2600:Summer 92,p.13)
Some new terms have been added to the computer criminal vocabulary.
"Trojan Horse is a hidden code put into a computer program. Logic bombs are
implanted so that 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 the big salami loaves sold in delis years ago. Often people would
take small portions of bites that were taken out of them and then they were
secretly returned to the shelves in the hopes that no one 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 bipartisan computer crime bill that was
expanded to make it a federal crime to hack into credit and other data bases
protected by federal privacy statutes."(Markoff, B 13:1) This bill is
generally creating several categories of federal misdemeanor felonies for
unauthorized access to computers to obtain money, goods or services or
classified information. This also applies to computers used by the federal
government or used in interstate of foreign commerce which would cover any
system accessed by interstate telecommunication systems.
"Computer crime often requires more sophistications than people realize
it."(Sullivan, 40:4) Many U.S. businesses have ended up in bankruptcy court
unaware that they have been victimized by disgruntled employees. American
businesses wishes that the computer security nightmare would vanish like a fairy
tale. Information processing has grown into a gigantic industry. "It accounted
for $33 billion in services in 1983, and in 1988 it was accounted 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 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
the turn of the century, "nearly all of the software to run computers will be
bought from vendors rather than developed in houses, standardized software 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 to numerous seizures.
Critics of Operation Sun-Devil claim that the Secret Service and the FBI, which
have almost a similar operation, have conducted unreasonable search and seizures,
they disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many people, and generally conducted
themselves in an unconstitutional manner. "My whole life changed because of
that operation. They charged me and I had to take them to court. I have to
thank 2600 and Emmanuel Goldstein for publishing my story. I owe a lot to the
fellow hackers and fellow hackers and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for
coming up with the blunt of the legal fees so we could fight for our rights."
(Interview with Steve Jackson, fellow hacker, who was charged in operation Sun
Devil) The case of Steve Jackson Games vs. Secret Service has yet to