Computer crimes need to be prevented and halted thought increased computer
network security measures as well as tougher laws and enforcement of those laws in
Computer crime is generally defined as any crime accomplished through special
knowledge of computer technology.
All that is required is a personal computer, a
modem, and a phone line.
Increasing instances of white-collar crime involve
computers as more businesses automate and information becomes an important asset.
Computers are objects of crime when they or their contents are damaged, as when
terrorists attack computer centers with explosives or gasoline, or when a "computer
virus"--a program capable of altering or erasing computer memory--is introduced
into a computer system.
As subjects of crime, computers represent the electronic
environment in which frauds are programmed and executed;
an example is the
transfer of money balances in accounts to perpetrators' accounts for withdrawal.
Computers are instruments of crime when used to plan or control such criminal acts
as complex embezzlements that might occur over long periods of time, or when a
computer operator uses a computer to steal valuable information from an employer.
Computers have been used for most kinds of crime, including fraud, theft,
larceny, embezzlement, burglary, sabotage, espionage, murder, and forgery, since
the first cases were reported in 1958.
One study of 1,500 computer crimes
established that most of them were committed by trusted computer users within
businesses; persons with the requisite skills, knowledge, access, and resources.
Much of known computer crime has consisted of entering false data into computers,
which is simpler and safer than the complex process of writing a program to change
data already in the computer. With the advent of personal computers to manipulate
information and access computers by telephone, increasing numbers of crimes--mostly
simple but costly electronic trespassing, copyrighted-information piracy, and
vandalism--have been perpetrated by computer hobbyists, known as "hackers," who
display a high level of technical expertise.
For many years, the term hacker
defined someone who was a wizard with computers and programing.
It was an honor to
be considered a hacker.
But when a few hackers began to use their skills to break
into private computer systems and steal money, or interfere with the system's
operations, the word acquired its current negative meaning. Organized professional
criminals have been attacking and using computer systems as they find their old
activities and environments being automated.
There are not a large number of valid statistics about the extent and results
of computer crime.
Victims often resist reporting suspected cases, because they
can lose more from embarrassment, lost reputation, litigation, and other
consequential losses than from the acts themselves.
Limited evidence indicates
that the number of cases is rising each year, because of the increasing number of