Computer Crime Argumentative Essay

This essay has a total of 3415 words and 15 pages.

Computer Crime

The technological revolution has taken full swing . If a business doesn't have some form
of e-commerce, or if a person does not have some form of an e-mail address, they are seen
as living in the stone age. This new world of virtual life, where with the click of a
button a person can travel millions of miles in a few seconds, millions of new
opportunities have arisen. However, someone has to always ruin the good things in life.
Very similar to Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," where the second thing built in a Utopia
was a prison, the advent of computer crime is only becoming more prevelant everyday. The
whole idea of a computer crime is rather absurd indeed. Really, who wants to go around
spray painting on computers anyway? Though the definition of computer crime varies from
source to source, the most common being," any illegal act which oinvolves a computer
system" ( "What is a computer..." p.1). This holds true even if the computer contains
something as simple as a threatening e-mail. Computer crime in nature ranges from
relatively small things such as software piracy to magnificent crimes like fraud.

Computer crime itself has metamorphasized from its mere infancy. In the late 1970's, a
would-be criminal would need direct access to the actual computer terminal. This is
because the most computer crime of that time actually involved hardware sabotage and
theft, rather than a more software oriented problem. In the late 1970s and early to mid
1980s, computer crime had elevated a notch with the advent of the inter-schiool network.
This network was a connection of several major universities through modem lines. Educated
computer users were now changing each others ideas and information, but not for the
malicious, but instead for the better. The mid to late 1980s saw the rise of computer
"hackers" such as Kevin Mitnick. kevin Mitnick was caught at least a half dozen times,
with the charges ranging from criminal tresspassing to fraud. Mitnick had broken into
several corporations' servers,n one being the well reknowned Sun Microsystems. When he was
arrested Mitnick became a martyr and a heron to many teenage computer enthusiasts. These
teens would be determined to carry on the symbolic spirit, or what they thought to be, of
Kevin Mitnick. However, the computer crimes that thses users perpatrate cost small
businesses and corporations millions each year, put restraints on legitimate computer
users and still remain an extremely dangerous, costly and virtually unstoppable crime. ("A
Brief History of..." p.2)

Information technologies (IT) specialists walk into work almost every morning only to find
one of their servers on the fritz. Now, these problems can arise for several different
reasons, ranging from security breeches to mere software conflicts. However, businesses
report losses ranging from $5 to $40 billion each year. The causes for these losses range
from having to hire new IT and IS (information systems) specialists to fix a problem, to
theft of product and software piracy. Software piracy is by far the largest problem.
("Latest Web Statistics" p.2)

An IT specialist's worst nightmare is a renegade "hacker" loose in the system. "Hacker" is
a slang name given to a person who has knowledge enough to compromise the security of a
system. Although less than 11% of all complaints filed in 1998 were of hacking, the
extreme danger of a hacker still remains. Hackers possess the powers to compromise
valuable system security features and possibly destroy or alter any data that they have
access to. In the year 2000, a projected 773 complaints will be filed in which at least
10% will be of hacking ("Latest Web Statistics" p.1). However, a hacker may only affect a
company with internet access, unless of course, they work for the company.

Corporate employees would be the least expected people that would harm an employer's
network or systems. The truth behind this is, that in fact most security breeches that
occur, happen because of curious enmployees "just looking around."

Many of these employees do not cause any real harm to anything at all. It just seems that
curiosity gets the best of them and they just have to look. However, there are cases where
a disgruntled employee will take his/her frustrations and anger out on the corporation or
business's network. At the event that this should happen, the IT department has a very
serious problem indeed. This is such a major problem because an employee's access, in some
networking architectures, goes unnoticed and therefore unchecked. The idea of almost
entirely unchecked access makes an angered employee a hundred times worse than any
would-be "hacker," which gives employers all the more reason to be nice to everyone,
because they never know when someone could rip down there multi-thousand dollar network.
The cost of these in-network security breeches and other crimes costs businesses an
estimated $3 billion. (Coutourie p. 1)

With the advent of both "hackers" and disgruntled corporate members, corporations dread
everyday. Computer criminals see these large corporations as a prime target because less
than 2% of reports lead to convictions. Companies lost "roughly" $2 billion in revenues
due to software piracy, much of which was stolen through the internet. Companies such as
Sun Microsystems, have had prototype plans and such stolen from them and sold to the
competition. Many companies are now hiring convicted computer criminals, and many are paid
to bring down the systems of the compettition. ("Latest Web Statistics" p.2)

To fight back corporations can only try to prevent such attacks. Using operating system
security featurers, especially with the Novell system, corporations can invoke some
control over what happens in their network. Many software manufacturers, such as Norton,
make network utility suites that maintain and manage a network, constantly keeping a
watchful eye over the precious network.

These computer criminals cause terrible problems for legitimate users. "Hackers" and
"crackers" are the reason for the numerous raids on bulletin board systems and their
operators. The old saying is that possession is nine tenths of the law, taking that into
consideration, most bulletin board owner/ operators, especially those that are members of
the "Underground," are guilty of software piracy as well as several other crimes. This is
because hackers often store their stolen information on another public server, and
bulletin boards are the perfect target. These computers are massive in power, in size and
are definately capable of storing and processing the thousands of requests to download the
stolen material.

Despite the seemingly negative nature of these bulletin boards, they are the backbone of
the internet. Many of the thousands that are out there, exist with no real malicious
intent. However, the federasl government has found it necessary to cerack down on almost
all bulletin board systems, by issuing search and siezure warrants. In March of 1990, the
2 year governtment investigation called Operation Sun Devil, executed 27 search warrants
(Sulski p.1). Equipped with these sources of power, Federal agents storm homes and sieze
only computer- related equipment. All of this is so that the system can be analyzed under
the virtual microscope of more federal agents. Because of these siezures, the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) was formed to protect the 1st Amendment rights of legitimate
computer users (Sulski p.4).

Hackers do more than just cause bulletin boards to be raided, but they cause the
restriction of access to normal users. Information that would normally be readily
available for the public eye, is now locked tightly behind some virtual door, never to be
seen again. All these security measures are a result of fear. The fear that only "hackers"
can create. These criminals make people afraid of everything that they could say. Shipping
addresses and phone numbers cannot be given over the internet for fear that some rogue
hacker will steal them and use the new-found information for some malicious purpose. Just
like anything, companies must play on the fear of inexperienced users, making them the
true fools. They sell programs that are no more recent than 1 year behind the "average
hacker" pace, and consumers buy it up thinking that somehow it may protect them and make
everything safe and secure. This isn't the case by far, and hundreds of thousands, if not
millions, are spent each year on useless software.

To understand how a "hacker" can compromise a system, one must know how and why. Through
all the stories told about these Jesse Jamess of the computer world, it is hard to
differentiate what a hacker is and what a hacker does. A hacker is no more than a computer
punk. Soemtimes smart and intelligent a hacker does no more than compromise a system
because they feel they should have free access to ALL data. These usually experienced
users often break into systems, steal data and often will destroy data. Recent years have
brought utilities and tools to make hacking a point and click event. The essentials of
hacking are still baseed around a few norms. Hackers must have a computer and a modem.
This is it! "Working with less than $300 worth of equipment" hackers sasyt hey can break
into systems, snoop through files and make long distance calls and bill them to your own
home (Corr p.1). With no more than a computer and a modem , a hacker could be an
individual or company's worse nightmare. By using methods which won't be named in this
paper, hackers can use valid username and passwords to access, often times, restricted or
hidden information. In this manner a hacker can take anything from simpl,e programs to
entire identities.

With all this power, it is a wonder that hackers don't get a "God complex." To be honest,
many do. Many hackers will elevate their crimes, each one growing more and more severe and
equally as challenging. The question still remains, are there any real ethics, a set of
rules that these renegades abide by? The answer for those that consider themselves "true
hackers" is yes. Many of these hackers believe that there are 5 real rules as follows:

1. Never damage any system
2. Never alter any system files aside from logs.
3. Never leave your handle (screen name) on computers you hack.
4. Do NOT hack government computers.
5. Be paranoid.
(Revelation p.4) Hackers have to live by the 5 rules above, if they don't, their lives as
they know it could result in 5 - 15 years in a lovely state or federal prison. All five of
these rules are all preventive maintenenvce type things that will prevent the arrest of
hackers. The general public wonders that if so much information is available, why aren't
any of these characters arrested? Well the answer is because there is no proof of
wrongdoing. Mere text files that explain what hackers do, how they do it, and how to do it
without getting caught are not criminal in nature.

Now seeing that hackers obviously do have a set of standards and rules, why does the
federal government spread the fears they do and why does Hollywood glorify hacking the way
it does? Well the answers are often unclear. The federal government, just like anyone
else, is afraid of what it does not understand. Hollywood seems to glorify it, just for
the simple reason that it is a major part of pop-culture and it has no idea what it is
Continues for 8 more pages >>




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