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Computer Crime: Prevention and Innovation

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Computer Crime: Prevention and Innovation

Since the introduction of computers to our society, and in the early 80's the Internet, the world has never been the same. Suddenly our physical world got smaller and the electronic world set its foundations for an endless electronic reality. As we approach the year 2000, the turn of the millenium, humanity has already well established itself into the "Information Age." So much in fact that as a nation we find our selves out of a service economy and into an information based economy. In a matter of only a few years almost all systems are run buy computers in some way, shape, or form. We depend on them for everything. Even the smallest malfunction or glitch in a system could now cause unfathomable amounts of trouble in everything from riding the bus, having access to your money, to getting your prescription at the pharmacists. Furthermore, Icove (1998) suggested that with the price of home computers that work faster and store more memory going down every year due to competition in the market, it is estimated that by the year 2011 most every American home will have a PC with instant access to the Internet. With an increase in users everyday and new businesses taking advantage of perks of an alternate electronic world, this information dimension will only get bigger, more elaborate, provide more services, and we will find society as a whole more and more dependent on it.

However, even in an artificial environment such as the cyberspace, it appears mankind cannot escape from its somewhat overwhelming natural attraction to wrongful behavior or criminal tendencies. In turn this alternative dimension has been infected with the same criminal behavior that plagues our physical reality. The information age has opened the doors to anti social, smart, and opportunistic people to find new and innovative ways to commit old crimes. These people are called hackers. Schamalleger (1999), stated that hackers are people who view and use computers as objects of exploration and exploitation(p. 457).

What is the social Problem?

Computer crime is the official name given to this criminal phenomenon driven by hackers. Although a solid definition of computer crime has yet to be agreed upon by scholars, it is described in a functional manner encompassing old crimes such as forgery, theft, mischief, fraud, manipulation or altering of documents; all of which are usually subject to criminal sanctions everywhere ("Electronic Crime"). Also included in the description or computer crime is the unauthorized invasion or trespass of data base systems of private companies or government agencies. According to Schamalleger (1999) computer crime is also described as any violation of a federal or state computer crime statue. Colorado State statue defines computer crime as,

(1) Any person who knowingly uses any computer, computer system, computer network, or any part thereof for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud; obtain money, property, or services by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises; using property or services of another without authorization; or committing theft commits computer crime.

(2) Any person who knowingly and without authorization uses, alters, damages, or destroys any computer, computer system, or computer network described in section 18-5.5-101 or any computer software program documentation, or data contained in such computer, computer system or computer network commits computer crime (Schmalleger, 1999, p. 486).

Bloombecker (1986) suggested he history of computer crime and hacking started in the late 1950's when AT&T first implemented its interstate phone system and direct distance dialing (DDD)(p. 450). Manipulation of the way that the DDD system worked, in order to make free long distance calling, was the objective of this crime. What the early hackers did was duplicate the particularly distinguishable tones that the phone companies used in their early switching devices enabling them to fool the system into thinking that the customer has paid. A person who used any number of devices available for manipulating switch systems in order to explore or exploit is called a phone phreak (Schmalleger, 1999, p. 479).

Who are the perpetrators?

Computer crime, like any other criminal activity, is a product of opportunity, desire, and ability. Anyone who owns a computer or has access to a computer has the opportunity to misuse its systems to engage in criminal activity. According to Kovacich (1989) researchers found that the average age of most computer crime defendants is between the ages of 21 and 23. The second highest age groups of computer crime defendants are between 18 and 20 (p. 25). Maxfield (1989) suggested that hackers could be classified into the following groups based on their psychological characteristics: pioneers, scamps, explorers, game players, vandals, and addicts.

Among these six (6) classifications of hackers, hard-core computer criminals are mostly found in the explorers, game players, vandals, and addicts. Maxfield (1989) stated pioneers are simply captivated by technology and explore with out necessarily knowing what they are getting into or without specific criminal intent. Scamps are curious and playful hackers that intend no real harm. Explorers, on the other hand, specifically look for highly sophisticated and secured systems that are relatively far from their physical location. The further away and the more sophisticated the systems that are being broken into are, the more exciting it is for the explorer. For the game player hacker, hacking is a sport that involves the identification and defeat of software, systems, and copyright protections. Vandals are hateful, angry hackers that strike harshly, randomly, and without any apparent personal gain other then knowledge, responsibility, and credit for such acts. Finally, addicts are your stereotypical nerdy individuals that are literally addicted to computer technology and hacking its self like an addict to drugs. Due to these obsessive behavioral patterns it is not surprising that many of these types of hackers are coincidentally hooked on illicit drugs too. Schmalleger (1999) stated that evidence of this is found in some hacker bulletin boards, where along with information on passwords, modems, and susceptible systems, they also share information on drugs (p. 490).

Who Does the Problem Affect?

Since the 1950's, technology has skyrocketed raising the capability of computers along with it. In turn computer crime has also evolved at the same rate from mere phone phreaking, to a complex categorization

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