The development of sophisticated information and communication technologies have spawned new varieties of crimes (e.g. hacking, identity fraud, terrorism). Critically discuss this problem and what steps can be taken to minimize these crimes.
The recent changes in technology that have arose from the convergence of modern communications and computing are truly breathtaking, and have already made a significant impact on many aspects of our lives. Banking, stock exchanges, air traffic control, telephones, electric power, health care, welfare and education are largely dependent on information technology and telecommunications for their operation. We are moving towards the point where it is possible to state that everything depends on modern technology. However, this exponential growth, and the increase in its capacity and accessibility coupled with the decrease in cost, has brought about revolutionary changes in every aspect of human civilization, including crime. (1)
The increased capacity of information systems today comes at the cost of increased vulnerability. Information technology has begun to produce criminal opportunities of a variety that the brightest criminals couldn’t even begin to dream about. The new breed of crimes, which is related to using computers, is broadly termed as Cyber Crime. Varieties of cyber crime include: Theft of Information Services, Communications in Furtherance of Criminal Conspiracies, Telecommunications Piracy, Electronic Money Laundering, Electronic Vandalism and Terrorism, Sales and Investment Fraud, Illegal Interception of Telecommunications, Electronic Funds Transfer Fraud and Identity Theft. (1)
If you think this is a big enough list then no, there are other crimes which stem from just computers, namely; Cyber Crime, Malware/Malicious Code, Denial-Of-Service Attack, Drug Trafficking, Hacker/Hacking, Computing Virus, Cyber Terrorism, Information Warfare, Cyber Stalking, Fraud and Identity Theft, Phishing and Virtual Crime (4)
Let’s discuss Fraud and Identity theft for now, as it’s the most common & upsetting of all. It is when someone uses, without permission, your personal information in order to commit any frauds or crimes. Identity theft is a felony and an increasingly common issue. That is because some of us are not very careful with personal information, making the job easier for those trying to steel our identity. We should always be careful with information like Social Security number, credit card number, birth date, employment information, driver’s license number, etc., because if they enter into the wrong hands the consequences can be very serious. People that have experienced identity theft spend months trying to repair what others have damaged, and in the meantime they cannot get a loan or lose a job opportunity or, sometimes, they can get arrested for something they didn’t do. (3)
If you have the slightest suspicion that someone has gained access to your personal information, acting quickly is a must. First of all, you should get in touch with the fraud department of the credit bureau where you have your accounts and request them to initiate a credit alert on your accounts. This way the creditors are obligated to contact you before taking any actions regarding your accounts.
Nowadays, purchases made over the internet are very common and some thieves have turned their attention to this domain. The way to protect your personal information when shopping online is to never release them unless you are using a secure browser. If you don’t have a secured browser or the website you’re visiting is not secured, place your order by phone or email. In addition, for the websites that require a password or a personal identification number (PIN) don’t use common names or dates as anyone can guess them, but create your own password or PIN made of numbers and letters.
These precautions do not really guaranty that you’ll not be an identity theft victim but they will surely minimize the chances that you’ll become one. Being careful with your personal information should not be a hustle but a routine. This way you can be sure you’ll not spend months or years and lots of money to restore your credit record and your name after thieves have messed it up. Precaution is the name of the game. (3)
Protecting the computer systems that support our critical operations and infrastructures has never been more important because of the concern about attacks from individuals and groups with malicious intent, including terrorism. These concerns are well founded for a number of reasons, including the dramatic increases in reported computer security incidents, the ease of obtaining and using hacking tools, the steady advance in the sophistication and effectiveness of attack technology, and the dire warnings of new and more destructive attacks. (5)
Telecommunications, power distribution, water supply, public health services, national defense (including the military’s war-fighting capability), law enforcement, government services, and emergency services all depend on the security of their computer operations. Yet with this dependency comes an increasing concern about attacks from individuals and groups with malicious intent, such as crime, terrorism, foreign intelligence gathering, and acts of war. Such concerns are well founded for a number of reasons, including the dramatic increases in reported computer security incidents, the ease of obtaining and using hacking tools, the steady advance in the sophistication and effectiveness of attack technology, and the dire warnings of new and more destructive attacks.
Dramatic increases in computer interconnectivity, especially in the use of the Internet, continue to revolutionize the way our government, our nation, and much of the world communicate and conduct business. The benefits have been enormous. Vast amounts of information are now literally at our fingertips, facilitating research on virtually every topic imaginable; financial and other business transactions can be executed almost instantaneously, often 24 hours a day; and electronic mail, Internet Web sites, and computer bulletin boards allow us to communicate quickly and easily with a virtually unlimited number of individuals and groups.(5)
Experts from around the world gathered in Geneva last year in October to discuss how to fight cyber crime through international co-operation. The meeting, held under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, also sought to promote cyber security, in general. (2)
Catching these criminals is the tough part. There are Computer Crime Stopper groups, hackers turned good, whose sole purpose and occupation is to track down and catch computer criminals. Tracking computer activity is a hard thing to do, especially over the Internet. There is no trail left for the criminal to be followed by. Usually the only things crime-stoppers have to go on are the IP addresses and telecommunication lines to trace to find the origin of the signal, but the perpetrator is normally long gone by the time authorities arrive.
Prevention is a crucial part in protecting the computers of today. Through secure servers, which are special computers [that] provide secure connections between networked computers and outside systems, (7) companies protect credit card and other personal information of their clients. Encryption is a method of encoding data using a set of key, which is then sent to the receiving party. They have the decoding key to transform the data back into understandable data. Encryption works very well, as long as the key doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Firewalls, a safety computer placed between a network and outside systems (7), can deter break-ins from external systems using usernames and passwords, but as we know they can be cracked with some effort.
The current laws and regulations against crime do not apply to computer crimes. Although some laws are twisted and contorted to apply to new situations as they arise, I feel that new legislation needs to be put into place to apply to the crimes and criminals. Cyber stalking is a good example of a computer crime that needs its own legislation to govern what is to be considered stalking and what are not over the Internet. Stalking without a computer is clearly defined, both what stalking is and what the penalties are for committing it, but communication over the Internet isn’t as clearly regulated.
It has been said that the Internet is the first empirically lawless domain of modern life. Even with the most carefully crafted legislation, enforcing a law in a virtual community creates unique problems never before faced by law enforcement agencies (6). Since the means of committing the crimes is different, should we consider different punishments? In the past, convicted computer criminals have served generally light terms for their crimes. Shouldn’t misuse done by a machine, which a human caused it to do, be the same as misuse done directly by the hands of a human? I guess one could say that we are lucky that ALL crimes can’t be committed over a computer, at least not yet.
Common Prevention methods: Like every other problem in our society, there are ways to minimize these crimes and where authorities can, they put an end to it. Some methods include:
Frequent password changing
Frequent virus checks
Email filters (1)
There is no doubt that the developments in information technology and communications have helped, but in order to curtail these new variety of crimes cannot be ignored. We are all at increasing risk of being affected by Cyber crime. Everything about our lives is in some manner affected by computers. More control and regulation should be practiced where these crimes are concerned and for information is the best form of protection.
(1) Arjun Venkatraman – Cyber Crime, “Prepetration and Prevention”. Retrieved on May 4 2008 from http://www.arjunvenkatraman.com/work/techno/cybercrime.html
(2) “How to fight cybercrime”. Retrieved on May 4 2008 from http://www.crime-research.org/news/09.10.2007/2934/
(3) Protect yourself against identity theft – Retrieved on May 4 2008 from http://www.crime-research.org/articles/protect-yourself-against-identity-theft/
(4) Computer Crime – Wikipedia.org. Retrieved on May 5 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_crime
(5) Cybercrime fighters: Feds Fight cyber crime, Jim Kouri, CPP. Retrieved on May 5 2008 from http://www.crime-research.org/news/30.12.2004/874/
(6) Donn B. Parker – Computer Security
(7) Laurence H. Tribe – The Constitution in Cyberspace
(8) Ricky M Magalhaes – Security-Virtualization. Retrieved on May 5 2008 from http://www.windowsecurity.com/articles/Security-Virtualization.html