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Computer Crime

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Computer Crime has become a very large issue in our society today; this paper will look at this issue from a sociological perspective. It will analyze the various crimes that make up computer crime and see what changes it has brought about in the world in which we live in. Computer crime first is a very new problem in our society today and it is crimes that are committed from a computer. These include embezzling, breaking into other computers, cyber porn and various other crimes that have a drastic affect on the society and the institutions that each of us hold to keep our global society running.

To first understand computer crime one must understand first what crime is. According to Diana Kendall, "crime is a behavior that violates criminal law and is punishable with fines, jail or other sanctions"(Kendall 1999; 161). Yet since computer technology is so new it has really no laws to govern it. A law is formal norms that are enforced, norms being established rules of behavior. Many of the crimes committed on computers often times go unpunished. As stated by David Pitchford in the London journal Focus when writing on pornography on the Internet, " the only way illegal pornographers can be caught is through chance leads, tip-offs and telephone tracing" (Focus 1995; p10-12). Many of the crimes that are also committed on computers via the Internet are very new also. New subcultures have formed around the Internet for the possibilities it brings. Computer crime despite the many problems it has brought has also brought some needed social controls to the Internet and as stated before some laws have been formed to protect many of the institutions that because of computer crime have become targets for criminals.

Now that I have briefly explained computer crime, I will go into further depth into explaining computer crime from the different sociological perspective theories. To start with is the integrationist perspective looks at of society as the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups" (Kendall; 17). Many of those that commit computer crimes are hackers or people who hack into computer systems for both fun and for gaining access to information. They have formed their own subcultures and hold many different beliefs about the information that is stored in personal computers. Said best by J. Thomas McEwen in the article Computer Ethics many hackers believe that "computerized data [is] free and should be accessible to anyone (McEwen 1991; 8-11). A subculture is a group a group of people who share a different set of beliefs that differ significantly from the larger society (Kendall; 604). Besides forming subcultures, many hackers have learned their behavior from other hackers. The behavior they learn seems to lend credibility to Edwin Sutherlands Differential Association Theory "which states that individuals are more likely to deviate from societal norms when they frequently associate with persons who are more favorable toward deviance than conformity (Kendall; 165). According to McEwen most "young computer hackers beliefs come from association with other hackers, not family members and teachers (McEwen 1991; 8-11). Besides the fact that many hackers learn, their ways from other hackers many after arrested are formally labeled as a hacker and a deviant, those who violate cultural norms and beliefs (Kendall; 598) The labeling theory suggests that deviants are those have been labeled as such by others (Kendall; 166). In theory than, after the person has been arrested they than assume that label and act accordingly. As written by David Pitchford in the London magazine, Focus, one hacker after being arrested was not deterred, he instead became a more active and in "92 became cyberspaces first megastar Pitchford; pages 10-13)." It was only after his second arrest that he stopped offences.

Besides the interactionist, perspective on computer crime is the conflict theory. "The conflict theory states that people in power maintain their advantage by using the law to protect their own interest." (Kendall; 168). Under the conflict perspective, hackers and other computer criminals are seen as deviant because many hackers break into large companies for the "mindless desire for glory (Pitchford; pages 10-13). " However besides hackers lack of any real criminal desires they are still seen as deviant because they blatantly while doing their hacking.

Since the Internet is a global tool, many of the crimes that are committed extend beyond national borders. For this reason the advent of computer crime have made the global community smaller. What one hacker does on his computer in another country affects you and I. This can be seen with the recent virus "Love bug", this virus disabled computer systems world wide (Washington Times, 5/18/2000). Yet, because of the quickly advancing computer technology a cultural lag has been created. A cultural lag is a gap between the technical development of a society and its moral and legal institutions. The "Love bug" virus; a set of commands that change computer programming and sometimes destroy files, one example of a virus is a "worm, which is a self replicating program"(Pitchford pages 10-13). The "love bug" virus in the last month crippled global companies by erasing files of



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