Computer crimes are considered to be an illegal criminal activity that uses technology to retrieve unauthorized data and information from a computer system (Buzzle, 2010, p. 1). There are various types of computer crimes. Viruses and worms are used by hackers to penetrate computer programs with the intention of doing harm that, in some cases, result in the demise of the computer itself. However, not all computer crimes include physical property damage. These types of crimes include; “altering data, deleting information, and manipulating classified information” (Buzzle, 2010, p. 1). HISTORY
Prior to the evolution of the computer and Internet, law enforcement officers faced challenges such as “prohibition, drug trafficking, organized crime and violent crimes” (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 1996, p. 1). Today, law enforcement officers have to contend with the rapid growth in computer-related crimes in conjunction with the existing challenges of street crimes. The process of “detecting, prosecuting and the prevention” (FBI, 1996, p. 1) of computer crimes have proven to be a losing battle with law enforcement. Some researchers suggest it resulted because of the “lack of education in public law enforcement relating to computer technology crimes” (FBI, 1996, p. 1), others believe some police department do not view computer crimes as a major threat in their respective communities because the effects of these types of computer crimes are not immediately seen. Finally, “the law enforcement community has devoted itself to high priority violent crimes, lumping computer crimes into a low priority status, yet the monetary losses to computer crimes could fund a small country”(FBI, 1996, p. 1). This way of thinking has resulted in what some believe to be “weak punishment” (FBI, 1996, p. 2) for the computer criminals. “WEAK PUNISHMENT” CASE EXAMPLES
The first reported computer crime case that entered the United States Federal Court System was U.S. v Riggs in 1986. Riggs was sentenced to “15 days of community service and placed on probation for 18 months for unauthorized use of a computer” (Standler, 2002, p. 3). Riggs was indicted again in 1990 for “unauthorized use of a computer that landed him 21 months in prison followed by 2 years supervised release” (Standler, 2002, p. 2). Riggs was not permitted use of any computers unless he was supervised. A second recorded computer crime occurred in 1997 in which, the youngest juvenile hacker was prosecuted by the United States Government for “disabling telephone service at Worcester, Massachusetts airport for six hours that also disabled air traffic control and other critical services” (Standler, 2002, p. 3). The juvenile hacker was sentenced to “two years of probation and 250 hours of community service” (Standler, 2002, p. 3). These two cases were among the first to be prosecuted in federal court. Since 1986 computer crime rates have continued to climb. The FBI Crime Complaint Center reported a 22.3% Internet crime increase from 2008 through December 31, 2009 (Crime in America, 2010). The total dollar loss from all reported FBI cases increased $295.1 million since 2008(Crime in America, 2010). INTERVENTION
These staggering statistics show the undeniable need for intervention. It has been shown in previous paragraphs that law enforcement agencies have not been able to gain any ground in the cyber- crime fight. The United States government acknowledged the need for intervention and stepped in. One approach the government has taken to fight cyber- crime occurred on May 29, 2009. President Obama announced a legislation plan to deal with the problems involving computer crimes against “the government, corporations, and individuals by coordinating the various efforts to fight hackers and other computer criminals under the direction of a coordinator already dubbed the ‘cyber czar’” (James, 2009, p. 1). Howard Schmidt was eventually chosen to take on the ‘cyber czar’ role in 2009. Schmidt duties include “supporting and protecting technological innovation” to avoid what people call “cyber-Pearl Harbor” (Sloane, 2010, p. 1).
This plan caused some controversy among citizens because of budget related issues and infringements on their civil liberties. Although these are valid concerns, I think issues relating to national security and issues concerning the safety of the American people constitute government intervention that may infringe on some civil liberties and may cause minor inconveniences. Americans should take a step back and consider the greater good for all mankind. I am in favor of these infringements and inconveniences being monitored and establishing limits but in the end the realization that freedom is not free and the American people have to pay the price of sacrifice to maintain our freedom.
Hacking can be considered a form of a computer crime. By definition hacking is defined as, “persons who create or modify computer software, typically with the goal of using software in a manner not intended by the original computer programmer” (Wikipedia, 2010, p. 1). A common form of hacking is the unauthorized disclosure of passwords used with the intent to acquire entry into programs that contain personal or an organizations confidential data and information (Wikipedia, 2010). Hacking of IP addresses is another dangerous computer crime. A hacker that has obtained illegally an IP address may use it for a false identity while performing illegal computer operations on the internet (Buzzle, 2010).
While hacking has been given a negative connotation through the media, it is important to point out that all hackers are not criminals. There are three types of hackers that “were created in order to distinguish themselves from each other, depending on the legality of their activities” (Wikipedia, 2010, p. 1). WHITE HAT HACKERS
These hackers are considered to be law-abiding and ethical whose job is to “secure and protect IT systems” (Wikipedia, 2010, p. 1). GREY HAT HACKERS
These hackers are referred to as “skilled hackers” (Wikipedia, 2010, p. 1) who occasionally indulge in illegal activity but in most cases it is not in a malicious manner. They commit these crimes to gain better security programs and software, not for personal gain (Wikipedia, 2010). BLACK HAT HACKERS
They are viewed by some as “the bad guy” (Wikipedia, 2010, p. 1) that hack for personal gain and to do harm to networks or computer with viruses or worms. TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID COMPUTER HACKING
There are multiple websites that offer suggestions for children, parents, and those who want information on avoiding specific types of cyber -crime such as online fraud and identity theft. The key to finding a reputable website is to do research and educate yourselves with the tools to fight back against this epidemic. For instance, the students of the “Masters of Arts in Journalism” program at the University of Western Ontario suggest the following 10 tips to parents who have children surfing the Internet: 1.”Create a list of Internet house rules with your children. 2. Keep computers with Internet in a central area - not in child's bedroom. 3. Talk to them about their online activities and friends.
4. Know which chat rooms and message boards your child visits and who they're talking to. 5. Talk about their Instant Messaging contacts, and make sure they're not talking to strangers. 6. Encourage them to come to you if they encounter messages or content that makes them uncomfortable. And don't "freak out" when they tell you, or they won't turn to you again. 7. Talk to your children about online pornography.
8. be aware of the websites that your child visits.
9. Discuss gambling and the potential risks.
10. Teach your children responsible Internet behavior. The Internet should not be used for spreading gossip, bullying or threatening others” (University of Western Ontario, 2007, p. 1) CONCLUSION
Computer crimes will continue to change as long as there is new technology and individuals who show no regard for personal property and privacy. My intention was to highlight the seriousness of computer crimes in the United States and the demand for harsher punishments against these criminals. As Americans, we set the standards for what will be tolerated and what will not be tolerated through our actions alone. Only then will we be able to see a positive shift in the fight against cyber -crime. References
Buzzle. (2010). Computer Crimes. Retrieved from www.buzzle.com Crime in America. (2010). Crime-News Crime Prevention. Retrieved from www.crimeinamerica.net/2010/3/16 Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1996). Computer Crime: An emerging challenge for law enforcement.. Retrieved from www.fbi.gov James, R. (2009, June 1). Brief history of computer crime. The Times. Retrieved from www.time.com Sloane, S. (2010). The role of a cyber czar. Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved from www.armedforcesjournal.com Standler, R. (2002, September 4). Computer crime (research report). Retrieved from : www.rbs2.com/cvict.htm University of Western Ontario. (2007). Cyber Safety Tips. Retrieved from www.fims.uwo.ca/NewMedia2007 Wikipedia. (2010). Hackers. Retrieved from www.wikipedia.org