Cyber Crime Awareness

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The "phone phreakers" of three decades ago set a precedent for what has become a major criminal industry. By gaining access to an organisation's telephone switchboard (PBX) individuals or criminal organisations can obtain access to dial-in/dial-out circuits and then make their own calls or sell call time to third parties. Offenders may gain access to the switchboard by impersonating a technician, by fraudulently obtaining an employee's access code, or by using software available on the internet. Some sophisticated offenders loop between PBX systems to evade detection. Additional forms of service theft include capturing "calling card" details and on-selling calls charged to the calling card account, and counterfeiting or illicit reprogramming of stored value telephone cards. It has been suggested that as long ago as 1990, security failures at one major telecommunications carrier cost approximately £290 million, and that more recently, up to 5% of total industry turnover has been lost to fraud.


Just as legitimate organisations in the private and public sectors rely upon information systems for communications and record keeping, so too are the activities of criminal organisations enhanced by technology. There is evidence of telecommunications equipment being used to facilitate organised drug trafficking, gambling, prostitution, money laundering, child pornography and trade in weapons (in those jurisdictions where such activities are illegal). The use of encryption technology may place criminal communications beyond the reach of law enforcement. The use of computer networks to produce and distribute child pornography has become the subject of increasing attention. Today, these materials can be imported across national borders at the speed of light. By contrast, some of the less publicly visible traffic in child pornography activity appears to entail a greater degree of organization. Although knowledge is confined to that conduct which has been the target of successful police investigation, there appear to have been a number of networks which extend cross-nationally, use sophisticated technologies of concealment, and entail a significant degree of coordination.


Digital technology permits perfect reproduction and easy dissemination of print, graphics, sound, and multimedia combinations. The temptation to reproduce copyrighted material for personal use, for sale at a lower price, or indeed, for free distribution, has proven irresistible to many. This has caused considerable concern to owners of copyrighted material. Each year, it has been estimated that losses of between US$15 and US$17 billion are sustained by industry by reason of copyright infringement.

When creators of a work, in whatever medium, are unable to profit from their creations, there can be a chilling effect on creative effort generally, in addition to financial loss.


Content considered by some to be objectionable exists in abundance in cyberspace. This includes, among much else, sexually explicit materials, racist propaganda, and instructions for the fabrication of incendiary and explosive devices. Telecommunications systems can also be used for harassing, threatening or intrusive communications, from the traditional obscene telephone call to its contemporary manifestation in "cyber-stalking", in which persistent messages are sent to an unwilling recipient. One man allegedly stole nude photographs of his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend and posted them on the Internet, along with her name, address and telephone number. The unfortunate couple, residents of Kenosha, Wisconsin, received phone calls and e-mails from strangers as far away as Denmark who said they had seen the photos on the Internet. Investigations also revealed that the suspect...
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