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Computer Crimes and Computer Related Crimes
Throughout the years since the creation of computers and the Internet, plenty of computer criminal acts have been carried out and devastating aftermaths were seen all over the world. Computer crime is defined as illegal actions executed through computers, the cyberspace or the information superhighway. It is essentially a development of conventional crime with the assistance of new technology. Although the World Wide Web was created about 1989, computer crime has surfaced way before and has been a growing issue for companies and the government. Due to the nature of computer crimes, there is no requirement for an individual to be physically at the scene of crime but yet have exactly the same ramifications as the conventional ones. With the rise of usage in the Internet and computers, the likelihood of being a prey of cybercrime is rising rapidly as statistics show that 59% of ex-employees admitted to stealing company data when leaving their previous job (GO-Gulf.com, 2013).
After the creation of computer during the 1940s, the first case of computer crime surfaced around October 1966 in the United States when a computer engineer was convicted of embezzlement via exploiting the IT architecture of a bank. In 1988, the Morris Worm was created and launched. It is a self-replicating worm but got out of hand and multiplied through six thousand networked computers, slowing them down till the point of near useless. Currently, computer crime has a history of exceeding fifty years and its frequency has been increasing exponentially every year. It is estimated that global cyber security market will be expecting an enormous growth of around 88.5% from US$63.7 billion in 2011 to US$120.1 billion. Furthermore, an approximate yearly cybercrime victim count statistics shows that there are 556 million victims every year - this equates to 1.5 million per day and 18 victims every second (GO-Gulf.com, 2013).
Types of Computer Crime
It is the exploitation of a computer system’s flaw to gain entry and at times retrieve information without the consent of the owner. An individual who does hacking is termed as a hacker and usually has a broad comprehension of computer and its applications. It is the act of overcoming the defence abilities of a computer system so as to gain unlawful entrance to the data stowed in the computer system.
By masking as a reliable source in telecommunications means, an endeavour to attain personal details of users is termed as phishing. The key function of phishing is to syphon money or obtain valuable information of an individual, which causes monetary deficit. According to go-gulf.com, phishing takes up 22% of the amount of cybercrimes that occurred. Criminals frequently use websites that possess the visual and processing similarity of certain websites, creating an illusion of security for the public to provide their personal data. Other than that, they also use emails to lure the users to give up their personal data.
In 2007, the Zeus Botnet was discovered and created using phishing. As a network of compromised computers, the Zeus Botnet attempted to attract individuals who received the emails to click on the links that directs them to malicious software which will infect the computers. According to FBI investigators, its purpose “is to steal money from the owners of affected computers by capturing their keystrokes in order to steal banking information.” (Kharif, 2014). Its creators have aimed at many different industries and companies, and have stolen approximately $70 million. Through a worldwide operation, more than a hundred individuals have been arrested in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Although the arrests have been made, this network is currently still in operation.
Zeus Botnet: Ethical?
The Zeus Botnet is a nasty virus that intrudes individuals’ privacy as well as making our computers’ performance and speed sluggish. To make matters worse, it allows criminals to steal money from users of affected computers. This sole act of invading others’ privacy itself is considered unethical and the addition of theft made Zeus Botnet far beyond unethical. According to the Computer Ethics Institute’s Ten Commandments, there is one that sums it up the best: “Thou shalt not use a computer to steal”. (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992)
- Computer Virus
Computer viruses are minute software programs that are programmed to disperse from one computer application to another by duplicating and injecting duplicates of itself without the consensus of the users. Furthermore, they are also capable of wiping out data, utilising users’ electronic mail to disseminate themselves to other computers and obliterating entirety of users’ hard disk. Computer virus constitutes 50% of the number of cybercrime occurrence (GO-Gulf.com, 2013)
One such example is the prolific “ILOVEYOU” virus, created by a couple from the Philippines, whereby it travels via an electronic mail tagged with the subject line of “I LOVE YOU”. It comprises of an attachment that, when clicked upon, will lead to the forwarding of the message to all the contacts in the victim’s electronic mail contact database. Furthermore, other than forwarding the message, the virus also obliterate all JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), MPEG-1/MPEG-2 (Moving Picture Experts Group) – commonly known as MP3, and some other specific files on the recipient’s hard disk. According to Keith A. Rhodes, Director of the Office of Computer and Information Technology, “By 6 pm the same day, Carnegie Mellon’s CERT Coordination Center had received over 400 direct reports involving more than 420,000 Internet hosts” (Rhodes, 2000).
“ILOVEYOU” Virus: Ethical?
Spreading such a malicious virus all across the world intentionally is something one should never do as the repercussions are unimaginable. Due to the virus, “various news services have estimated the cost of the virus - in terms of lowered productivity and labor costs to manage the virus and recover from damage - in the range of $5 billion to $15 billion worldwide” (Malphrus, 2000). This act by the irresponsible couple has violated the Computer Ethics Institute’s Ten Commandments, whereby “Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people”. (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992)
In the case of Stuxnet which happened in the middle of 2010, it is a state-of-the-art worm that the world has never seen. It was targeted at industrial control computers that use the software from Germany’s Siemens (SI). Due to the strong competencies and a high occurrence rate in Iran, it has been rumoured to be crafted by a nation-state and was particularly targeted at incapacitating Iran’s nuclear program. The United States of America and Israel are the countries being highly suspected of crafting it.
Although Stuxnet affected plenty of people all around the world, it only causes insignificant damage to computers that do not meet its required specification settings. Although that is the case, it is still considered unethical as it inconvenienced many and has violated the Computer Ethics Institute’s Ten Commandments, where “Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing” and “Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that insure consideration and respect for your fellow humans”. (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992)
However, through a Utilitarian’s point of view, Stuxnet managed to cripple Iran’s nuclear program for the greater good of mankind. Although the intention behind the creation is unknown, it benefitted mankind more than harm and therefore should be deem ethical.
- Identity Theft and Fraud
These are expressions employed to associate to all sorts of unlawful activity whereby an individual illegally acquires and exploits another’s private information through sham and ruse, typically for monetary benefits. These can happen no matter whether the target is dead or alive. The act of stealing identities does not signify identity fraud as long as no goods or services are transacted. Personal data, unlike fingerprints and retina scans, can easily be used by someone else to benefit from you. Majority do not know how effortless it is for crooks to gather our personal data with no requirement of trespassing into our residences. A slight peeping while an individual enters their credit card information in the public or going through dustbins in the offices is all they need to gain one’s personal data. From there, they can start using these data for illegal purposes and thus stealing your identity.
- Distributed Denial-of-service (DDoS) Attack
An effort to deny genuine users from retrieving data or rendering online systems inaccessible to them are categorised as distributed denial-of-service attack. Hackers take over computers on the Internet and trigger them to engulf a website with requests for data and other minute chores. During a distributed denial-of-service, an aggressor may utilise one’s computer to attack another computer by abusing the security flaws and possessing one’s computer.
Other than those that I have elaborated, there are many other types of computer crimes that are happening all around us without us realising. Things such as copyright infringement or plagiarism can, under certain circumstances, be considered computer crimes too.
With the rise of plagiarism in our society, it seems to be a norm to copy certain things off the web without citing the original owner. Majority have the mentality whereby everything online is free for all to use and that we do not have to give credit to the authors or creators. Plagiarism, itself, is a computer crime that the general public failed to notice when it was still uncommon. However, many educational institutions have reported that there has been an exponential rise in the cases of plagiarism and have taken measures to curb this unacceptable act through the usage of online systems like turnitin.com to check for plagiarism.
The Computer Ethics Institute was founded by a few organisations to confront these rising issues regarding cyber ethics and sensible cyber communal behaviour. They suggested the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics to assist in the emphasising of appropriate online behaviour. Other than Computer Ethics Institute, the Association for Computing Machinery has also came out with a code of conduct for their members “as a basis for ethical decision making in the conduct of professional work” (Association for Computing Machinery, 1962). Computer crimes can never be fully eradicated as long as the root of the problem lingers and that root is the public’s knowledge of cyber ethics. With the help of these two organisations and countless individuals around the world, cybercrimes have been put under the spotlight with different government bodies around the world putting their resources into the fight against computer crimes.
All the above examples show how susceptible the general public is to cybercrimes when there is a lack of knowledge in this expertise. Even in today’s world where many would call themselves IT savvy users, majority of the public still hold strong misconceptions about cybercrimes and assume that they will be safe as long as they, for example, do not go to dubious websites. Throughout the world, cybercrime has become widespread like an epidemic. It requires no physicality to actually exist and with globalisation giving it a helping hand, it all boils down to the public’s awareness. The public has to be educated about the potential risks and deficits that cybercrimes are capable of.
Furthermore, they have to be taught on how to stay safe in the information superhighway whenever they are traveling on it as the physical world has been merged with the online world. With the world being more interconnected as time passes by, it is of utmost importance to educate the public on proper internet usage to keep themselves and their personal information safe. If these steps are not taken, more and more people will become victims of cybercrimes. Other than that, it will incur unnecessary deficits to the world as costs of cyber security will be skyrocketing through the clouds.
Association for Computing Machinery. (1962, October 16). Code of Ethics. Retrieved Febuary 2, 2014, from Association for Computing Machinery: https://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics
Computer Ethics Institute. (1992). Computer Ethics Institute. Retrieved Febuary 3, 2014, from Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics: http://computerethicsinstitute.org/publications/tencommandments.html
GO-Gulf.com. (2013, May 17). Cyber Crime Statistics and Trends [Infographic]. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from GO-Gulf.com: http://www.go-gulf.com/blog/cyber-crime/
Kharif, A. H. (2014). Cyber Crime and Information Warfare: A 30-Year History: Zeus Botnet - Business Week. Retrieved January 27, 2014, from Bloomberg Businessweek: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/10/10/1014_cyber_attacks/13.htm
Malphrus, S. R. (2000, May 18). FRB: Testimony, Malphrus -- The "I Love You" computer virus and the financial services industry. Retrieved Febuary 3, 2014, from The Federal Reserve Board: http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/testimony/2000/20000518.htm
Rhodes, K. (2000, May 10). Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Technology, Committee on Science, House of Representatives. Retrieved January 27, 2014, from Information Security - "ILOVEYOU" Computer Virus Emphasizes Critical Need for Agency and Governmentwide Improvements: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GAOREPORTS-T-AIMD-00-171/pdf/GAOREPORTS-T-AIMD-00-171.pdf