Computer crime essay sample:
With the dramatic development in the technology of computers and communications, the world has certainly benefited a lot, but the price might also be very expensive. Computer crimes are now becoming very serious problems that are costing up to billions of dollars. The US, where the computer was invented and where the Internet was developed, is considered to be the motherland of the worst computer crimes so far. Other countries are also contracting this problem as their governments, businesses and individuals become more dependent on computers and networks. Computer crimes are threatening the future of communication, confidentiality and even the integrity of businesses and organizations.
When people think of computer crimes, many are inclined to think of computer theft, that is, when a person carries a computer, a notebook or a laptop that does not belong to him and goes away with it. This is actually true, because the theft of hardware and computers is still considered to be common in many countries, especially the theft of portable computers that are very light, small and easy to carry. However, computer crimes are in fact much more complicated and dangerous than just stealing a computer.
The world today is becoming a smaller and at the same time, connected village, mainly because of the Internet. Thousands of companies, organizations and agencies, in addition to millions of people all over the world are able to contact each other and to communicate through the computer and the Internet. It is through the phone and the computer that some of the worst crimes are taking place. By definition, a computer crime takes place when an unauthorized person reaches information and data that he was not supposed to reach, or when an individual inflicts damage on the files, systems and networks of others on purpose. These crimes are now becoming serious felonies that lead to imprisonment and heavy fines in countries such as the US, where the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is the agency responsible for handling such cases.
In 1997, more than 75% of all American companies reported that they had been victims of computer crimes. The cost of these crimes were an average of about $400,000 per company. The most common crimes were hardware theft, computer viruses and unauthorized access to data and information. Those who steal hardware are conventionally known as thieves, whereas those who criminally use viruses or try to break into networks and systems are known as computer hackers.
Theft of hardware, although very common, is not a very serious problem. A computer that is stolen, or a printer that disappears can always be replaced. The cost is always known, and the consequences can be made up for. However, in the case of a computer crime that involves breaking into the data system of the company, the results are usually out of control. It is not possible to find out the size of damage done to a company whose files have been stolen until a very long time to pass, especially that the company might not be aware of the crime at the time it happens.
Computer hackers commit their crimes in a variety of ways. One common way is installing a virus program inside a network of a certain company. This virus program then starts recording all kinds of passwords used in the system, and passes them to the hackers. Later on, the hacker breaks into the security systems of the company and reaches access to any information that might be hidden away by the company on its computers.
Another way is to install computer viruses on the company’s network. These virus programs may be programmed to start working at a specific time or when a specific application is run, or when a specific file is opened. When the virus activates, it might do the kind of damage that it was designed for. For example, it might delete some or all kinds of files on the computer. It might make the applications run in a distorted way, or it might simply destroy the whole system, making the computer impossible to operate. In either case, valuable information is lost, as well as valuable applications that require a lot of money and time to repair.
Files visited by hackers may contain sensitive information about clients, allies, and competitors, and their fall in the wrong hands can be disastrous for the victim company. A victim company might lose its customers to its competitors and might even lose major projects if such information leaks out to unauthorized parties. The dollar measurement of such damage is not always possible, but it is usually very huge.
It was traditionally believed that only large companies and organizations represented attractive targets for hackers, especially that the information that they would get out of there might be valuable and worthy. However, recent developments show that no one is safe when it comes to computer crimes, not even simple individuals in their homes are simply working on their computers for personal use.
Furthermore, computer crimes are now committed on a mass level. For example, a virus might be sent through e-mail to thousands if not millions of individuals, groups, organizations, governments and agencies at the same time. This is known as spamming, a term that is very closely related to junk mail, where computer criminals can reach e-mail addresses of users and then start to mail unwanted material and advertisements to these addresses. This too is considered to be a federal computer crime because it involves an assault on privacy.
To make the situation worse, computer specialists claim that there is no magic solution. The possibility of computer crime is always there, and the only way to reduce its occurrence is through awareness of users. Awareness is, however, the first step, and alone, it can do nothing. Potential victims, especially companies and organizations that have valuable and sensitive data on their computers have to resort to managerial and technological strategies in order to deal with computer crimes.
Technologically, there are a few methods to face computer crimes. One method is to use security systems, but these are very expensive. An effective security system can cost up to $20,000 and still, the possibility that this system might be broken through remains large. As a matter of fact, the use of security systems such as firewalls may also be difficult and ineffective. Firewalls are special security programs that stand between the computer databases and the Internet to prevent unauthorized external users from reaching information. However, these firewalls may not work if the user does not make sure that all the components of the security system are activated. Users often underestimate the danger and do not attend to such time-consuming tasks, which makes firewalls ineffective.
In addition to this, anti-virus programs that hunt viruses and prevent them from entering the system may not always be effective. Everyday, new virus programs are created, which means that the company has to update its anti-virus systems almost weekly or monthly. Besides, there are very dangerous viruses which may not have anti-virus programs to stop them. This makes security through technology another serious issue.
Since viruses do not only come from the Internet but also from infected floppy disks and programs, it is necessary to scan every program, disk or application that comes from outside. Many viruses are inserted into systems by mistake because a user was not aware that there was a virus on the disk, program or application. Scanning is therefore necessary, although scanning programs may not be acquainted with all kinds of viruses.
The human factor in fighting computer crime remains crucial. It has been found out that most computer hackers were able to commit their crimes because of information they received on the phone from employees inside companies who were not aware that the information they were giving could be used for hacking purposes. Therefore, training employees how to handle phone calls is a very important defense mechanism against computer crimes.
Another problem is that there are employees who leave their companies and the turn in sensitive information about the systems of the company to interested hackers. To face this problem, companies should continuously change their passwords whenever old employees quit their jobs. Furthermore, companies should always check on those employees who may be a source of suspect, especially employees who have access to systems, or who come first thing in the morning and leave last in the evening or at night.
In addition to this, individuals, companies or agencies who use credit cards on the Internet for shopping or commercial purposes should make sure that the other party receiving the payment on the Internet is trustworthy. Several shopping sites on the Internet such as Excite have already set up security shopping zones to prevent hackers from getting the passwords to credit cards of shoppers. Individuals are also advised to have special cards with limited accounts for Internet purposes because it is impossible to guarantee that the password will not fall in the wrong hands.
It is impossible to be safe from computer crimes, especially when using the Internet, modem or even when having many employees who have access to databases. Prevention is always important, but the possibility that an individual, company, agency or organization might at any time fall a victim to computer crimes is always there. Technological and managerial solutions should be used, although they may not be sufficient. Federal laws protecting victims from computer crimes are still under development, but until then, every user logging into the Internet or saving important data on computers has to be very careful in protecting this data. Computer crimes may not appear as dangerous as homicide, but they are certainly very costly, and sometimes their influence might be disastrous for thousands of people working in a company or organization, not to mention governments.
Cybercrime, or computer oriented crime, is crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Cybercrimes can be defined as: "Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (networks including but not limited to Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (Bluetooth/SMS/MMS)". Cybercrime may threaten a person or a nation's security and financial health. Issues surrounding these types of crimes have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement, unwarranted mass-surveillance, sextortion, child pornography, and child grooming. There are also problems of privacy when confidential information is intercepted or disclosed, lawfully or otherwise. Debarati Halder and K. Jaishankar further define cybercrime from the perspective of gender and defined 'cybercrime against women' as "Crimes targeted against women with a motive to intentionally harm the victim psychologically and physically, using modern telecommunication networks such as internet and mobile phones". Internationally, both governmental and non-state actors engage in cybercrimes, including espionage, financial theft, and other cross-border crimes. Activity crossing international borders and involving the interests of at least one nation state is sometimes referred to as cyberwarfare.
A report (sponsored by McAfee) estimates that the annual damage to the global economy is at $445 billion; however, a Microsoft report shows that such survey-based estimates are "hopelessly flawed" and exaggerate the true losses by orders of magnitude.[third-party source needed] Approximately $1.5 billion was lost in 2012 to online credit and debit card fraud in the US. In 2016, a study by Juniper Research estimated that the costs of cybercrime could be as high as 2.1 trillion by 2019.[third-party source needed]
Computer crime encompasses a broad range of activities.
Fraud and financial crimes
Main article: Internet fraud
Computer fraud is any dishonest misrepresentation of fact intended to let another to do or refrain from doing something which causes loss. In this context, the fraud will result in obtaining a benefit by:
- Altering in an unauthorized way. This requires little technical expertise and is common form of theft by employees altering the data before entry or entering false data, or by entering unauthorized instructions or using unauthorized processes;
- Altering, destroying, suppressing, or stealing output, usually to conceal unauthorized transactions. This is difficult to detect;
- Altering or deleting stored data;
Other forms of fraud may be facilitated using computer systems, including bank fraud, carding, identity theft, extortion, and theft of classified information.
A variety of internet scams, many based on phishing and social engineering, target consumers and businesses.
Main article: Cyberterrorism
Government officials and information technology security specialists have documented a significant increase in Internet problems and server scans since early 2001. But there is a growing concern among government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that such intrusions are part of an organized effort by cyberterrorists, foreign intelligence services, or other groups to map potential security holes in critical systems. A cyberterrorist is someone who intimidates or coerces a government or an organization to advance his or her political or social objectives by launching a computer-based attack against computers, networks, or the information stored on them.
Cyberterrorism in general can be defined as an act of terrorism committed through the use of cyberspace or computer resources (Parker 1983). As such, a simple propaganda piece in the Internet that there will be bomb attacks during the holidays can be considered cyberterrorism. There are also hacking activities directed towards individuals, families, organized by groups within networks, tending to cause fear among people, demonstrate power, collecting information relevant for ruining peoples' lives, robberies, blackmailing etc.
Main article: Extortion
Cyber-extortion occurs when a website, e-mail server, or computer system is subjected to or threatened with repeated denial of service or other attacks by malicious hackers. These hackers demand money in return for promising to stop the attacks and to offer "protection". According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cyber-extortionists are increasingly attacking corporate websites and networks, crippling their ability to operate and demanding payments to restore their service. More than 20 cases are reported each month to the FBI and many go unreported in order to keep the victim's name out of the public domain. Perpetrators typically use a distributed denial-of-service attack.
An example of cyberextortion was the attack on Sony Pictures of 2014.
Main article: Cyberwarfare
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) notes that the cyberspace has emerged as a national-level concern through several recent events of geo-strategic significance. Among those are included, the attack on Estonia's infrastructure in 2007, allegedly by Russian hackers. "In August 2008, Russia again allegedly conducted cyberattacks, this time in a coordinated and synchronized kinetic and non-kinetic campaign against the country of Georgia. Fearing that such attacks may become the norm in future warfare among nation-states, the concept of cyberspace operations impacts and will be adapted by warfighting military commanders in the future.
Computer as a target
These crimes are committed by a selected group of criminals. Unlike crimes using the computer as a tool, these crimes require the technical knowledge of the perpetrators. As such, as technology evolves, so too does the nature of the crime. These crimes are relatively new, having been in existence for only as long as computers have—which explains how unprepared society and the world in general is towards combating these crimes. There are numerous crimes of this nature committed daily on the internet:
Crimes that primarily target computer networks or devices include:
Computer as a tool
Main articles: Internet fraud, Spamming, Phishing, and Carding (fraud)
When the individual is the main target of cybercrime, the computer can be considered as the tool rather than the target. These crimes generally involve less technical expertise. Human weaknesses are generally exploited. The damage dealt is largely psychological and intangible, making legal action against the variants more difficult. These are the crimes which have existed for centuries in the offline world. Scams, theft, and the likes have existed even before the development in high-tech equipment. The same criminal has simply been given a tool which increases his potential pool of victims and makes him all the harder to trace and apprehend.
Crimes that use computer networks or devices to advance other ends include:
- Fraud and identity theft (although this increasingly uses malware, hacking or phishing, making it an example of both "computer as target" and "computer as tool" crime)
- Information warfare
- Phishing scams
- Propagation of illegal obscene or offensive content, including harassment and threats
The unsolicited sending of bulk email for commercial purposes (spam) is unlawful in some jurisdictions.
Phishing is mostly propagated via email. Phishing emails may contain links to other websites that are affected by malware. Or, they may contain links to fake online banking or other websites used to steal private account information.
Obscene or offensive content
The content of websites and other electronic communications may be distasteful, obscene or offensive for a variety of reasons. In some instances these communications may be legal.
The extent to which these communications are unlawful varies greatly between countries, and even within nations. It is a sensitive area in which the courts can become involved in arbitrating between groups with strong beliefs.
One area of Internet pornography that has been the target of the strongest efforts at curtailment is child pornography, which is illegal in most jurisdictions in the world.
See also: Cyberbullying, Online predator, Cyberstalking, and Internet troll
Whereas content may be offensive in a non-specific way, harassment directs obscenities and derogatory comments at specific individuals focusing for example on gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation. This often occurs in chat rooms, through newsgroups, and by sending hate e-mail to interested parties. Harassment on the internet also includes revenge porn.
There are instances where committing a crime using a computer can lead to an enhanced sentence. For example, in the case of United States v. Neil Scott Kramer, Kramer was served an enhanced sentence according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual §2G1.3(b)(3) for his use of a cell phone to "persuade, induce, entice, coerce, or facilitate the travel of, the minor to engage in prohibited sexual conduct." Kramer argued that this claim was insufficient because his charge included persuading through a computer device and his cellular phone technically is not a computer. Although Kramer tried to argue this point, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual states that the term computer "means an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemically, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and includes any data storage facility or communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with such device."
Connecticut was the U.S. state to pass a statute making it a criminal offense to harass someone by computer. Michigan, Arizona, and Virginia and South Carolina have also passed laws banning harassment by electronic means.
Harassment as defined in the U.S. computer statutes is typically distinct from cyberbullying, in that the former usually relates to a person's "use a computer or computer network to communicate obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, or make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature, or threaten any illegal or immoral act," while the latter need not involve anything of a sexual nature.
Although freedom of speech is protected by law in most democratic societies (in the US this is done by the First Amendment), it does not include all types of speech. In fact spoken or written "true threat" speech/text is criminalized because of "intent to harm or intimidate", that also applies for online or any type of network related threats in written text or speech. The US Supreme Court definition of "true threat" is "statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group".
Darknet markets are used to buy and sell recreational drugs online. Some drug traffickers use encrypted messaging tools to communicate with drug mules. The dark web site Silk Road was a major online marketplace for drugs before it was shut down by law enforcement (then reopened under new management, and then shut down by law enforcement again). After Silk Road 2.0 went down, Silk Road 3 Reloaded emerged. However, it was just an older marketplace named Diabolus Market, that used the name for more exposure from the brand's previous success.
- One of the highest profiled banking computer crime occurred during a course of three years beginning in 1970. The chief teller at the Park Avenue branch of New York's Union Dime Savings Bank embezzled over $1.5 million from hundreds of accounts.
- A hacking group called MOD (Masters of Deception), allegedly stole passwords and technical data from Pacific Bell, Nynex, and other telephone companies as well as several big credit agencies and two major universities. The damage caused was extensive, one company, Southwestern Bell suffered losses of $370,000 alone.
- In 1983, a nineteen-year-old UCLA student used his PC to break into a Defense Department International Communications system.
- Between 1995 and 1998 the Newscorp satellite pay to view encrypted SKY-TV service was hacked several times during an ongoing technological arms race between a pan-European hacking group and Newscorp. The original motivation of the hackers was to watch Star Trek re-runs in Germany; which was something which Newscorp did not have the copyright to allow.
- On 26 March 1999, the Melissa worm infected a document on a victim's computer, then automatically sent that document and a copy of the virus spread via e-mail to other people.
- In February 2000, an individual going by the alias of MafiaBoy began a series denial-of-service attacks against high-profile websites, including Yahoo!, Amazon.com, Dell, Inc., E*TRADE, eBay, and CNN. About fifty computers at Stanford University, and also computers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, were amongst the zombie computers sending pings in DDoS attacks. On 3 August 2000, Canadian federal prosecutors charged MafiaBoy with 54 counts of illegal access to computers, plus a total of ten counts of mischief to data for his attacks.
- The Russian Business Network (RBN) was registered as an internet site in 2006. Initially, much of its activity was legitimate. But apparently the founders soon discovered that it was more profitable to host illegitimate activities and started hiring its services to criminals. The RBN has been described by VeriSign as "the baddest of the bad". It offers web hosting services and internet access to all kinds of criminal and objectionable activities, with an individual activities earning up to $150 million in one year. It specialized in and in some cases monopolized personal identity theft for resale. It is the originator of MPack and an alleged operator of the now defunct Storm botnet.
- On 2 March 2010, Spanish investigators arrested 3[clarification needed] in infection of over 13 million computers around the world. The "botnet" of infected computers included PCs inside more than half of the Fortune 1000 companies and more than 40 major banks, according to investigators.
- In August 2010 the international investigation Operation Delego, operating under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security, shut down the international pedophile ring Dreamboard. The website had approximately 600 members, and may have distributed up to 123 terabytes of child pornography (roughly equivalent to 16,000 DVDs). To date this is the single largest U.S. prosecution of an international child pornography ring; 52 arrests were made worldwide.
- In January 2012 Zappos.com experienced a security breach after as many as 24 million customers' credit card numbers, personal information, billing and shipping addresses had been compromised.
- In June 2012 LinkedIn and eHarmony were attacked, compromising 65 million password hashes. 30,000 passwords were cracked and 1.5 million EHarmony passwords were posted online.
- December 2012 Wells Fargo website experienced a denial of service attack. Potentially compromising 70 million customers and 8.5 million active viewers. Other banks thought to be compromised: Bank of America, J. P. MorganU.S. Bank, and PNC Financial Services.
- April 23, 2013 saw the Associated Press' Twitter account's hacked - the hacker posted a hoax tweet about fictitious attacks in the White House that they claimed left President Obama injured. This hoax tweet resulted in a brief plunge of 130 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, removal of $136 billion from S&P 500 index, and the temporary suspension of AP's Twitter account. The Dow Jones later restored its session gains.
- In May 2017, 74 countries logged a ransomware cybercrime, called "WannaCry"
Combating computer crime
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(January 2015)
Diffusion of cybercrime
The broad diffusion of cybercriminal activities is an issue in computer crimes detection and prosecution. According to Jean-Loup Richet (Research Fellow at ESSEC ISIS), technical expertise and accessibility no longer act as barriers to entry into cybercrime. Indeed, hacking is much less complex than it was a few years ago, as hacking communities have greatly diffused their knowledge through the Internet. Blogs and communities have hugely contributed to information sharing: beginners could benefit from older hackers' knowledge and advice. Furthermore, Hacking is cheaper than ever: before the cloud computing era, in order to spam or scam one needed a dedicated server, skills in server management, network configuration, and maintenance, knowledge of Internet service provider standards, etc. By comparison, a mail software-as-a-service is a scalable, inexpensive, bulk, and transactional e-mail-sending service for marketing purposes and could be easily set up for spam. Jean-Loup Richet explains that cloud computing could be helpful for a cybercriminal as a way to leverage his attack – brute-forcing a password, improve the reach of a botnet, or facilitating a spamming campaign.
A computer can be a source of evidence (see digital forensics). Even where a computer is not directly used for criminal purposes, it may contain records of value to criminal investigators in the form of a logfile. In most countriesInternet Service Providers are required, by law, to keep their logfiles for a predetermined amount of time. For example; a European wide Data Retention Directive (applicable to all EUmember states) states that all E-mail traffic should be retained for a minimum of 12 months.
- Methodology of cybercrime investigation
There are many ways for cybercrime to take place, and investigations tend to start with an IP Address trace, however that is not necessarily a factual basis upon which detectives can solve a case. Different types of high-tech crime may also include elements of low-tech crime, and vice-versa, making cybercrime investigators an indispensable part of modern law-enforcement. Methodology of cybercrime detective work is dynamic and is constantly improving, whether in closed police units, or in international cooperation framework.
Due to easily exploitable laws, cybercriminals use developing countries in order to evade detection and prosecution from law enforcement. In developing countries, such as the Philippines, laws against cybercrime are weak or sometimes nonexistent. These weak laws allow cybercriminals to strike from international borders and remain undetected. Even when identified, these criminals avoid being punished or extradited to a country, such as the United States, that has developed laws that allow for prosecution. While this proves difficult in some cases, agencies, such as the FBI, have used deception and subterfuge to catch criminals. For example, two Russian hackers had been evading the FBI for some time. The FBI set up a fake computing company based in Seattle, Washington. They proceeded to lure the two Russian men into the United States by offering them work with this company. Upon completion of the interview, the suspects were arrested outside of the building. Clever tricks like this are sometimes a necessary part of catching cybercriminals when weak legislation makes it impossible otherwise.
President Barack Obama released in an executive order in April 2015 to combat cybercrime. The executive order allows the United States to freeze assets of convicted cybercriminals and block their economic activity within the United States. This is some of the first solid legislation that combats cybercrime in this way.
The European Union adopted directive 2013/40/EU. All offences of the directive, and other definitions and procedural institutions are also in the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime.
Penalties for computer related crimes in New York State can range from a fine and a short period of jail time for a Class A misdemeanor such as unauthorized use of a computer up to computer tampering in the first degree which is a Class C felony and can carry 3 to 15 years in prison.
However, some hackers have been hired as information security experts by private companies due to their inside knowledge of computer crime, a phenomenon which theoretically could create perverse incentives. A possible counter to this is for courts to ban convicted hackers from using the Internet or computers, even after they have been released from prison – though as computers and the Internet become more and more central to everyday life, this type of punishment may be viewed as more and more harsh and draconian. However, nuanced approaches have been developed that manage cyberoffender behavior without resorting to total computer or Internet bans. These approaches involve restricting individuals to specific devices which are subject to computer monitoring or computer searches by probation or parole officers.
As technology advances and more people rely on the internet to store sensitive information such as banking or credit card information, criminals are going to attempt to steal that information. Cyber-crime is becoming more of a threat to people across the world. Raising awareness about how information is being protected and the tactics criminals use to steal that information is important in today's world. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2014 there were 269,422 complaints filed. With all the claims combined there was a reported total loss of $800,492,073. But yet cyber-crime doesn't seem to be on the average person's radar. There are 1.5 million cyber-attacks annually, that means that there are over 4,000 attacks a day, 170 attacks every hour, or nearly three attacks every minute, with studies showing us that only 16% of victims had asked the people who were carrying out the attacks to stop. Anybody who uses the internet for any reason can be a victim, which is why it is important to be aware of how one is being protected while online.
As cybercrime has proliferated, a professional ecosystem has evolved to support individuals and groups seeking to profit from cybercriminal activities. The ecosystem has become quite specialized, including malware developers, botnet operators, professional cybercrime groups, groups specializing in the sale of stolen content, and so forth. A few of the leading cybersecurity companies have the skills, resources and visibility to follow the activities of these individuals and group. A wide variety of information is available from these sources which can be used for defensive purposes, including technical indicators such as hashes of infected files or malicious IPs/URLs, as well as strategic information profiling the goals, techniques and campaigns of the profiled groups. Some of it is freely published, but consistent, on-going access typically requires subscribing to an adversary intelligence subscription service.
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