Ethical Dilemma

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Legality, piracy, ethics, effects, moral dilemmas, motives, age, involvement, types - encryption are all main issues in Computer Crimes in todays world. How do we determine someone fate? Computer crime has become such a hot topic in the media since the middle of the 1980's. By now most of us would have probably recognize the names of some of the prominent "hackers" such as Kevin Mitnick or Robert Morris, which I will touch upon their crimes. These hackers or more appropriately "crackers" have been both vilified and herofied by the media and the computer field. Some of these criminals have been made out to be modern day Robin Hoods, or cyberpunks or whatever. I however disagree with them, and feel as a member of the computer community their actions are irresponsible. Kevin Mitnick is a well knowncomputer criminal who was apprehended with the aided of "Cybersleuth" Tsutumo Shimomura, whose computer was one of the many that Mitnick invaded. He had always been in trouble with the law for computer related crimes. He was first convicted and was declared to be addicted to computers. Part of the stipulations of his parole was that he not have access to computers. It was his return to computer use that brought the law against him, but he was not captured again until after invading Shimomura's computer. Mitnick had apparently invaded computers across the nation, stealing millions of dollars worth of corporate trade secrets, in addition to over 20,000 credit card numbers.

Robert Morris was the author of the infamous Internet "worm" that brought the Internet to a standstill back in 1988. Morris a highly knowledgeable first year graduate student at Cornell University authored this worm program which exploited many security flaws in the UNIX operating system to spread throughout the Internet. Reactions to his worm are greatly varied. Some claim that this act was unlawful, irresponsible, and negligent. However, other have heralded his release of the program as a way to bring national attention to the security flaws inherent in the UNIX operating system. Legality

The United States government has proposed that a compromise that would allow people to use encrypted devices, but still allows the government to break the codes if necessary. Essentially, an encryption chip, the clipper chip, would be placed into devices that need secure data transmission. The keys to decoding the encrypted message would be kept in escrow by two separate government agencies. Each agency would contain half of the key to prevent abuse. Law enforcement agencies would be able to obtain the keys by obtaining a warrant.

The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to the Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected to review every title? Is the Internet like a phone company who must ignore what it carries because of privacy? Is it like a broadcasting medium, where the government monitors what it broadcasts? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or none of these things depending on how it's used. The Internet cannot be viewed as one type of transfer medium user current broadcasting definition.

Jim Exon, a democratic senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill regulating the Internet. If the bill passes, certain commercial servers that post pictures of unclad beings, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of course be shut down immediately or risk prosecution. The same goes for any amateur web site that features nudity, sex talk, or rough language. Posting any dirty words in a Usenet discussion group, which occurs routinely, could make one liable for a $50,000 dollar fine and six months in jail. Even worse, if a magazine that commonly runs some of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for instance, decided to post its comments on-line, its leaders would be responsible for a $100,000 fine and two years in jail. Why does it suddenly become illegal to post...
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