Examining Daily Computer Crime And Technologys Criminology Essay

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The last fifty years have evidenced a fast moving technological curve which has resulted in the intensive integration of computer technologies with all aspects of daily life. This integration has however been accompanied by a rapid escalation of various types of computer crimes. The national law enforcement and legal departments, who were unprepared for this challenge, have so far been unable to eliminate it. This has mainly resulted from the fact that; there still lacks a relevant, uniform framework for addressing computer crimes within the international community, there is no uniform definition for the various forms of computer crime and US citizens have remained vulnerable to computer criminals. Various studies have indicated a dire need for; an international framework that will be able to handle computer crime beyond national borders, creation of citizen awareness and uniform training of law enforcement departments on; what constitutes computer crimes, how to implement the national policy on computer crime and the individual roles of these departments in this mandate.

Types of Computer Crimes

Computer fraud is a rapidly increasing form of computer crime. According to the Department of Justice, this refers to the use of the internet to present or transmit the proceeds of fraud (Department of Justice, 2004). In 2003 alone, the Internet Crime Complaint center received more than one hundred and twenty four thousand complaints of internet related fraud (Krebs, 2004). These fraud-crimes may take the form of advance fee fraud schemes that entice the victims to pay fees in advance to either receiving money or items (Parsons & Oja, 2009). There are also fraud schemes posing as businesses requiring personal information after which the criminals steal the victims' identity and carry out additional financial transactions. Another popular form is the counterfeit check scheme in which computer criminals use overpaid fraudulent checks to pay for items and request for the extra amounts to be relayed through wire transfers (Parsons & Oja, 2009). Other types may include; direct identity theft and pyramid schemes. Phishing is also a popular type of computer crime which entails a fraudster setting up someone else's website or email and posing as the original party (Krebs, 2004). By setting up these spoofed websites, the fraudster poses as the webmaster of the original site and is able to dope the victims into relaying confidential information which is then used for fraud .

Theft computer crimes are also growing very rapidly. These encompass the unauthorized removal of money, data, programs or output from a computer (Krebs, 2004). Internet piracy is a common form of this crime. This entails duplicating copyrighted material without authorized access. This has continued posing a challenge to the private and law enforcement organizations. The motion picture association and the recording industry associations of America, which loose more than four billion dollars annually, have been unable to stop this menace (Krebs, 2004).

Gaining unauthorized access has facilitated many types of computer theft and fraud. This is usually the onset of many computer crimes. This may occur through direct intrusion to a personal computer or may entail hacking through a network to access a personal computer (Krebs, 2004). Ivanov, was charged with unauthorized access into dozens of US based computers, computer theft, fraud and extortion (Department of Justice, 2004). The pentagon website records more than one hundred daily hacking attempts (Department of Justice, 2004).

Computer crimes may also involve blocking a legitimate user of a service from accessing it (Goodman, 2001). This may entail deliberately overloading the available service resources, altering the service data configuration or maliciously destroying the available connections. Yahoo is often a victim of this crime, where offenders overload the site with unnecessary electronic connections to prevent the access of legitimate users (Gordon et al., 2003).

Computer crime also includes the use of computers to invade personal privacy. The Virginian penal code describes this as the use of a computer to review any information without authorized access (Gordon et al., 2003). Most states also cover the unauthorized use of a computer, computer network or the computer system. The state of Maryland prohibits; the unauthorized intentional access, the cause and the interruption of the functioning of a; computer, computer control language, computer network or the computer system (Gordon et al., 2003).

Harmful content computer crimes refer to the offenses which deal with using a computer or a computer service to deliberately cause harm to another party. These include; exploitation, child pornography, stalking, harassment and the use of malicious computer programs. The child pornography computer crime is catered for by 18 USC 2252 and 18 USC 2252A (Gordon et al., 2003). Malicious programs normally target businesses. The Melissa virus which infiltrated US and Europe ruined more one million US computers (Gordon et al., 2003). This harmful content may be from; competitors, disgruntled employees or random attackers. The use of spam mail has also increased spontaneously. This refers to the manipulative acquisition of a victims' personal information by offering fictitious deals on products and services. A ranging issue in the debate on computer crime has been on the increasing incidences of cyber terrorism. This refers to attack of computer resources so as to instill terror on the victims. The motive behind such attacks is often political or social. Studies have indicated that the US pentagon receives more than one hundred hacking attempts daily (Department of Justice, 2004).

Challenges Faced by Law Enforcement Agencies

Computer crimes pose a more daunting challenge to law enforcement officers due to the fact that they are technical in nature (Parsons & Oja, 2009). This requires the law enforcement forces to be more or equally technologically adept as compared to the criminals. The traditional approaches of training law enforcement officers are therefore irrelevant in tackling computer crime. Even where training on computer crime is conducted, it is insufficient and often ineffective. Researchers have therefore stressed on the need to have law enforcement officers who are well trained in computer forensics or computer science (Johnson, 2005).

The increased integration of information technology with various electronic resources has in turn increased the accessibility of people to the internet and added the pool of vulnerable victims exposed to criminals (Goodman, 2001). Electronic gadgets such as the cell phone and palm pilots have now added another facet to crime by increasing the avenues and the methods available to criminals to commit crime. The list of the forms of computer crime is rapidly growing. There is no uniform way to monitor these incidences.

The definition of computer crime and associated terminology as well as the various types of computer crime has remained a big challenge in apprehending these criminals. The reluctance of states to update and implement the relevant policies is also a challenge in the fight against computer crime. This has in turn caused the lack of standardized definitions of computer crime between the various offices of law enforcement within the state. Goodman stresses on the need of applying common definitions of criminal phenomena so as to ensure that all law enforcement are equally knowledgeable (Goodman, 2001). The application of these definitions will also enable the various arms of law enforcement to realize their respective roles in the fight against computer crime. In addition, this also enhances the evaluation of threats and crime patterns which will highlight the urgency of the issue (Johnson, 2005). The implementation of a uniform definition of the terms used and the types of computer crime is essential in the fight against computer crime. The Californian penal code describes computer crime as when one knowingly or without permission facilitates the use of, or uses the computer or its services to commit an offense (Parsons & Oja, 2009). This definition is applicable due to the fact that it allows any of the roles of the computer to be legally viewed as an offensive action (Parsons & Oja, 2009). This covers all crimes where a computer is used as; the target, the instrument of offense or simply an accessory to offense (Johnson, 2005). The national definition of computer crime as recorded by the department of justice simply views a computer crime as any violation of the criminal law that utilizes the computer (Department of Justice, 2004). This fails in exempting other forms of crime.

A prevailing problem of computer technology is the fact that there is a deficit of reliable statistics. Researchers state that more than 90% of these computer crimes are undetected and unreported (Goodman, 2001). Most business do not report internet related crime and fraud due to the fear of losing credibility with their clients. Researchers have estimated an annual loss of more than 1.5 billion dollars from American companies due to cyber crimes (Johnson, 2005). In the study by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001, all the companies interviewed had been victims of computer crimes but only 17% had reported the incidences to law enforcement agencies (U.S. Department of Justice, 2004). The study also indicated that the public is also unaware that they can report these incidences and who they should report to. The lack of statistics has caused increased reluctance among law officials to prioritize the urgency of the matter. Studies have indicated that with the exception of child pornography, all other forms of computer crimes are generally ignored by more than half of the existing American law enforcement agencies (U.S. Department of Justice, 2004). The nature of these crimes also requires the cooperation of forces between various territories. The lack of a standardized protocol, further poses the challenge of prioritization between the various forces (Johnson, 2005). This is also reflected in the availability of resources to fight computer crime. In a study conducted by the department of justice, researchers concluded that 50% of American law enforcement agencies lack any specialized computer crime units and 75% of the agencies had no tools and equipment for tackling such crime (Johnson, 2005). In half of these forces, the officers were insufficiently trained.

The biggest challenge facing the fight against computer crime is jurisdictional. The internet is not hindered by the geographical boundaries and has a global outreach. This allows criminals to access Americans systems from anywhere in the world. Tracking such perpetrators without an international framework and international cooperation is an impossible task. Most cases of computer crimes and embezzlement often target financial networks of international scope (Johnson, 2005). Due to the fact that these organizations already have clients from all over the world, they have implemented systems to allow the clients' easier access. This in turn allows easier access to criminals. Due to the nature of the internet, computer crime often involves criminals crossing national or interstate boundaries. The popular love bug virus that infiltrated the networks of thousands of American based companies, for example, originated from Philippines (Parsons & Oja, 2009). Such crimes therefore often require law enforcement agencies to investigate cases which transpired to victims within their jurisdiction but were committed by criminals outside the defined jurisdictions. The presence of countries where computer crime laws are more lax such as the former Soviet republics has continued to pose a threat to the rest of the world (Parsons & Oja, 2009).

In America, although most of these crimes have been left to states, the various law enforcement forces within the states lack the necessary legal and technological equipment for dealing with extraterritorial computer crimes (Johnson, 2005). Goodman observes that state law enforcement agencies do not have the power to execute subpoenas and warrants outside their territories, despite the fact that in most instances computer crimes are not confined within these borders (Goodman, 2001). This therefore implies that even with the evidence of the crime, most computer crimes remain unprosecuted due to inter-boundary issues.

The existing international convention has been based on the computer crime incidences of the 1990s. In addition to the various state laws, the federal government has therefore also instituted various laws to fight the increasing incidence of computer crime. The computer fraud and abuse act which was legislated in 1986 defines the various legal mechanisms available for perpetrators of computer crimes (Johnson, 2005). The USA patriot act which was passed five years later addressed the issue of limited capabilities within the law enforcement departments and even allowed the training of specialized officers (Johnson, 2005). In addition, this act, called for the warrant-enabled monitoring of nationwide emails.

Various agencies have also been set up to deal with computer crimes. The National Cybercrime Training Partnership, which was instituted in 2002, was charged with the mandate of ensuring that state and federal law enforcement officers are well equipped in addressing computer crimes (Johnson, 2005).This institution deals with data recovery and evidence preservation. The National Institute of Justice's National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center was also formed to test the compliance of the available tools to fulfilling the national mandates. The National Infrastructure Protection Center, which is under the federal investigations bureau, was also formed to coordinate investigations on computer crime between the available agencies (Johnson, 2005). In addition, the Internet Fraud Initiative and the Internet Fraud Complaint Center which help in conducting investigations, ensure that the necessary information is passed between various law enforcement departments. The implementation of the internet fraud complaint center in 2000 by the FBI and the White Collar Crime Center provided a framework for reporting fraud computer crimes (Johnson, 2005). This department has dealt with more than three thousand complaints. Two hundred of these cases have been handed over to the international law enforcement agencies.

The existing international convention is based on the computer literacy of the 1990s. This implies that it is so far outdated and ineffective in fighting computer crime which is rapidly increasing in dimensions and variation every day (Johnson, 2005). Newer types of crime such as phishing and identity theft have remained unaddressed in the convention forcing various countries to implement their own legislation to deal with these issues. These have remained ineffective due to lack of international commitment. In a bid to address this issue, in 23, March 2010, US legislators called for a new International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act which would enable the US to monitor the incidences and prevention strategies of computer crime in other countries. This would enable international cooperation between law enforcement agencies and allow the US to protect the economy and the networks from undesirable infiltration by imposing sanctions to countries which are reluctant to comply (Markoff, 2010).

In conclusion, the government has already implemented various domestic policies and agencies in an attempt to deal with computer crimes. Computer crimes target very vital infrastructures. The types and incidences of computer crimes have continued increasing. This is because computer crimes have no geographical boundaries and there is no universally accepted international law on how to deal with computer crime beyond jurisdictions. In addition, US citizens do not report most of the computer crimes and have remained vulnerable to computer criminals. There is therefore need for an international framework that will be able to handle cyber crime beyond national borders as well as a citizen awareness program on; types of computer crime, avoiding victimization and where to go for help.