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.

Introduction

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 automated.

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...
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