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Computer abuse: vandalizing the information society
Steven M. Furnell and Matthew J. Warren

Introduction
Global information networks are now an integral part of the way in which modern businesses and economies operate. One of the best examples of the trend, the Internet, is now estimated to extend to over one million computers, connecting 30 million users in more than 40 countries and is still increasing. A rudimentary comparison arising from this is that the “population” of the Internet now exceeds that of some industrialized nations. As a consequence there is now widespread dependence on computers and network technology, with the ability to communicate and receive information via these channels being recognized as an essential ingredient for competitiveness in the global market. The transition to the information society is being driven by the reduction in the costs of computing power and telecommunications. These factors, in combination with advances in the core technologies, are making information resources available to an increasing number of people. Leading industry figures are excited by this revolution, some predicting that its effects will be as far reaching as the introduction of electricity (Gates, 1995). The concept has also received significant publicity and backing from national governments in various developed countries with (for example) the USA pushing the information superhighway, an open network of information that will be as accessible as the conventional telephone system. It is, therefore, clear that this route is perceived to be an important element in insuring future national development and competitiveness. Unfortunately, within any sufficiently mature society there will always be a criminal or destructive element. The information society is no exception to this and the individuals involved have been collectively christened under various names, including “hackers,” “cyberpunks” and “phreakers.” However, a potential difference from the norm is that the undesirable element has been present from a relatively early stage, with a high degree of publicity being received in the process. As a consequence, many people know the information society as much for its problems as for its benefits. Outstanding issues are whether this will restrict the society’s development and, if so, how the problem may be addressed. 61

The authors Steven M. Furnell is a Research Fellow with Network Research Group, University of Plymouth, UK. Matthew J. Warren is a Lecturer at Plymouth Business School, University of Plymouth, UK. Abstract Examines the damaging effects that malicious computer abuse, such as hacking and viruses, can have on the development of an information-based society. Computing and telecommunications technologies are a key ingredient in the realization of this society, but are increasingly the targets of criminals and mischief makers. Highlights the apparent escalation in computer-abuse incidents, as illustrated by a number of recent surveys, and examines the effects that these may have on the public perception of technology (and, hence, the smooth transition to the information society). Also presents some broad recommendations regarding what can be done to address the problem. This considers both technical measures to help safeguard systems and revised attitudes to computer abuse, to insure that incidents can be dealt with more effectively.

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy Volume 7 · Number 1 · 1997 · pp. 61–66 © MCB University Press · ISSN 1066-2243

Computer abuse: vandalizing the information society

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy Volume 7 · Number 1 · 1997 · 61–66

Steven M. Furnell and Matthew J. Warren

The development of the information society
The fact that our lives are changing as a result of the spread of technology is widely accepted and the nature of the “society” that will result has been forecast by numerous authors...
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