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Computer Crime Is Increasing

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Computer Crime Is Increasing

A report discussing the proposition that computer crime has increased

dramatically over the last 10 years.


Computer crime is generally defined as any crime accomplished through special

knowledge of computer technology. Increasing instances of white-collar crime

involve computers as more businesses automate and the information held by the

computers becomes an important asset. Computers can also become objects of crime

when they or their contents are damaged, for example when vandals attack the

computer itself, or when a "computer virus" (a program capable of altering or

erasing computer memory) is introduced into a computer system.

As subjects of crime, computers represent the electronic environment in which

frauds are programmed and executed; an example is the transfer of money

balances in accounts to perpetrators' accounts for withdrawal. Computers are

instruments of crime when they are used to plan or control such criminal acts.

Examples of these types of crimes are complex embezzlements that might occur

over long periods of time, or when a computer operator uses a computer to steal

or alter valuable information from an employer.

Variety and Extent

Since the first cases were reported in 1958, computers have been used for most

kinds of crime, including fraud, theft, embezzlement, burglary, sabotage,

espionage, murder, and forgery. One study of 1,500 computer crimes established

that most of them were committed by trusted computer users within businesses i.e.

persons with the requisite skills, knowledge, access, and resources. Much of

known computer crime has consisted of entering false data into computers. This

method of computer crime is simpler and safer than the complex process of

writing a program to change data already in the computer.

Now that personal computers with the ability to communicate by telephone are

prevalent in our society, increasing numbers of crimes have been perpetrated by

computer hobbyists, known as "hackers," who display a high level of technical

expertise. These "hackers" are able to manipulate various communications

systems so that their interference with other computer systems is hidden and

their real identity is difficult to trace. The crimes committed by most

"hackers" consist mainly of simple but costly electronic

trespassing, copyrighted-information piracy, and vandalism. There is also

evidence that organised professional criminals have been attacking and using

computer systems as they find their old activities and environments being


Another area of grave concern to both the operators and users of computer

systems is the increasing prevalence of computer viruses. A computer virus is

generally defined as any sort of destructive computer program, though the term

is usually reserved for the most dangerous ones. The ethos of a computer virus

is an intent to cause damage, "akin to vandalism on a small scale, or terrorism

on a grand scale." There are many ways in which viruses can be spread. A virus

can be introduced to networked computers thereby infecting every computer on the

network or by sharing disks between computers. As more home users now have

access to modems, bulletin board systems where users may download software have

increasingly become the target of viruses. Viruses cause damage by either

attacking another file or by simply filling up the computer's memory or by using

up the computer's processor power. There are a number of different types of

viruses, but one of the factors common to most of them is that they all copy

themselves (or parts of themselves). Viruses are, in essence, self-replicating.

We will now consider a "pseudo-virus," called a worm. People in the computer

industry do not agree on the distinctions between worms and viruses. Regardless,

a worm is a program specifically designed to move through networks. A worm may

have constructive purposes, such as to find machines with free resources that

could be more efficiently used, but usually a worm is used to disable or slow

down computers. More specifically, worms are defined as, "computer virus

programs ... [which] propagate on a computer network without the aid of an

unwitting human accomplice. These programs move of their own volition based upon

stored knowledge of the network structure."

Another type of virus is the "Trojan Horse." These viruses hide inside another

seemingly harmless program and once the Trojan Horse



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