Computer Crime: Prevention & Innovation

This essay has a total of 3565 words and 16 pages.

Computer Crime: Prevention & Innovation

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.

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 of crime all to itself. So much in fact that
computer crime is now a global concern due to the financial burden that it places onto its
victims. Primary victims to computer crime are the companies' or government agencies'
database systems that are being invaded. By doing so the hacker is hoping to cause some
sort of loss or inconvenience and either directly or indirectly benefit themselves or a
group they belong to or have strong affiliation with. Secondary victimization is what
happens to the public when they begin to fear that no information or computer system that
we rely on is ever truly safe from hackers. In short computer crime affects the entire
world-all of us.

Computer use, misuse, and abuse.
Hollinger (1988) suggested that computer us is grouped into three (3) categories. Those
categories are normal, proper computer use, improper computer use, and criminal misuse (p.
126). Computer abuse, although not illegal, points to moral issues of concern for society
as a whole. This refers to legal but restricted web sites and activities belonging to
subcultures that do not share traditional value structures that the general public adheres
to. Due to the existence of these groups the information dimension has also been flooded
with misuses such as sexually explicit material and sensitive information that, in my
opinion, the general public should not have such easy access to. A few examples of
Sensitive information are, access to bomb making blue prints, where to get materials for
such a devise, and military tactical procedures that out line the process and positioning
of such devises to create the most damage.

In the category of computer misuse, is the creation and deployment of viruses and software
piracy. Schmalleger (1999) stated that a computer virus is a set of computer instructions
that propagates copies or versions of itself into computer programs or data when it is
executed (p. 477). This renders all systems locked into malfunction mode and can cause
permanent damage to a computers hard drive and or memory if at all the computer can be
de-bugged from the virus in the first place.

According to Bequai (1987) more than $13 billion are lost world wide to software piracy.
Software piracy refers to the bootlegging of software programs available for computers.
Using software of this nature not only takes business away from the makers of the
software, but it also, one, takes away from the original intentions and capabilities of
the software, and two, provides a greater risk of passing a virus onto the computer it is
applied to.

How, When, and Where Dose the Problem Occur?
In traditional criminal events, when one is looking for the roots or causation of any
particular physical crime, the physical environment, social environment, psychological and
mental capacity, and economics all play major roles. Likewise, physical crime happens in
real time and in a physically tangible space. However, computer crime is more complicated
in the sense that although real time measurements are used to record the transactions
between computers, the location of the criminal offence is in cyberspace. Schmalleger
(1999) wrote that cyberspace is the computer produced matrix of virtual possibilities,
including on line services, wherein human beings interact with each other and with
technology it self .

Although physical environment, social environment, psychological and mental capacity, and
economics are important factors in computer crimes, specific causation of computer crime
has to be dealt with on a case by base study. What makes one person engage in computer
crime can be different from what makes another person do the vary same criminal act.
However, what remains the same in all computer crimes is the dependent use of modems,
telephones, and some sort of unauthorized entrance into a government, commercial, or
private data base system.

For example, on September 16, 1999 in Dallas, Texas, United States Attorney Paul E.
Coggins was happy to report that, due to aggressive investigations done by the Federal
Bureau of Investigation and later prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew
Yarbrough, Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell were sentenced in federal court by Chief
District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer. Criminal conviction on the two was handed down for selling
stolen long distance calling card numbers that were illegally obtained by hacking into
computer systems of Sprint Corporation, Southwestern Bell and GTE. Calvin Cantrell, age
30, of Grand Prairie, Texas, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and ordered to pay
$10,000 to the victimized corporations and Corey Lindsly, age 32, of Portland, Oregon, was
sentenced to forty-one months imprisonment and ordered to pay $10,000 to the victimized

Through investigations Corey Lindsly and Calvin Cantrell were identified as two major
ringleaders in a computer hacker organization known as the Phone Masters. This group of
hackers, very professionally, structured their attacks on the computers through
teleconferencing and made use of encryption program PGP to hide the data that they
exchanged with each other. In addition to the crimes that Corey Lindsly and Calvin
Cantrell were convicted for, further evidence showed that the group had also infiltrated
computer systems owned by utility providers, credit reporting agencies, and systems owned
by state and federal governmental agencies including the Nation Crime Information Center
(NCIC) computer. The definitive mission of the Phone Masters organization was to one day
take control of all telecommunications infrastructures in the nation.("Department of

In the Phone Masters example, an on line social environment, psychological and mental
capacity, and economic gain were underlying factors in the causation of the criminal acts
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