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As the world has moved into the 21st century and technologies presence in our lives have increased, so has the amount of crime that is committed using the Internet and computers. Cybercrime is a form of crime where the Internet or computers are used as a medium to commit crime. Issues surrounding this type of crime have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement, child pornography, and child grooming. There are also problems of privacy when confidential information is lost or intercepted, lawfully or otherwise. In recent years the U.S. has invested money and effort towards protecting vital systems in the U.S. from following prey to cybercrime and cyber terrorism. However, various studies and recent incidents in the news show that the U.S. lags behind other nations such as China in efforts to combat cyber crime and cyber terrorism. This problem is one that the public often overlooks, yet it is a very serious matter nonetheless.
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What comes to mind when you hear the word computer crimes? A common response is hackers. Although many may not know of a fully fledged hacking case, they often fall under federal jurisdiction. Hacking is nothing new and has been around for many years. It actually can be dated back to 1870 when a male teenager was first hired as a switchboard operator and was able to disconnect and redirect calls and use the line for personal usage. The advent of the computer age brought about the traditional hacker, who was first thought of as a harmless user with a curiosity about how things worked. The best way to figure how things work was to take things apart or view the internal configuration and learn what makes them function, and hackers did just that with electronic devices and systems. Over the years, hacking has taken on a completely different meaning and is often identical with the activity of a computer criminal. Hackers, both good and bad are here to stay and have a role in our society.
There are three types of hackers and each is different from the other. For example, a white hat hacker is “a person who identifies weakness in a computer system or network but instead of taking advantage of it, expose the weakness to the system owner and recommends a fix before the flaw can be taken advantage of by others” (Michael Knetzger, 2008). They usually work with major law enforcement agencies and big industrial corporate offices to help reduce hacking. In contrast with white hat hackers, black hat hackers “break into system with malicious intent to steal damage or deface them, (usually a computer, phone system or network) for vandalism, credit card fraud, identity theft, piracy, or other types of illegal activity”( (Michael Knetzger, 2008)). Grey hat hackers are those who are on both side of the hacking fence. A gray hat hacker discovers and supplies information about network security issues and weakness to the network administrator and also to black hat hackers to exploit the system. Hacking in general continues to have a negative association and implies any illicit activity against a computer system or other digital device. Hackers can be defined or categorized, there is not a one size fits all hacker profile, but statistics have shown that hackers share similar traits. Hackers tend to be between the age group of 14-25 years, insecure, white males who are intelligent social outcasts or loners who have had previous problems in school and lack positive outlets for their talents. They are also the technical superiors to criminal offenders and are most difficult for law enforcement to track.
The actual number of hacking attacks against private and public industry is unknown. Statistics show that only 17% of companies whose computers were hacked report them to law enforcement due to fear of negative publicity. In addition, business owners feel that they may lose hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the New York Times, “90% of Fortune 500 networks have been hacked. In Canada Internet hacking has doubled to 8% in 1998 over a period of just one year” (Parker, 1983). If this trend continues then it must now be around 32%. This only includes reported computer hacking trends; therefore it certainly would be much higher. Not only is business having trouble with hacking but also Homeland Security and Department of Defense. There have been approximately 250,000 attempts to break into the Government systems in 1995, 65% of which were successful (Michael Knetzger, 2008). According to research in 1998 the Financial Cost to computer security breaches was reported for the 163 companies at $123.7 Million (1999 CSI/FBI Report).
Hacking continues to be one of the major issues of cyber crime. At another level copyright infringement is the appropriation of new forms of intellectual property that have been created or popularized within cybercrime. Copyright infringement (or copyright violation) “is the unconstitutional or prohibited use of works covered by copyright law, in a way that violates one of the copyright owner’s restricted rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work or to make derivative works” (Parker, 1983). There are many ways that copyrights infringement are being used; the most common ones from the 21st century are musical works, TV, films, and text. It is a continuous thing that continues to grow. For example, replication of a CD or other recorded media containing copyright material without authorization of the copyright holder may be a form of copyright infringement, depending on local laws. Unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material and sharing of recorded music over the Internet, often in the appearance of MP3 files, is another form of infringement; even after the termination of Napster and a series of infringement suits brought by the RIAA. Bootleg recordings are musical recordings that have not been formally released by the artist or their associated administration or production companies. They may consist of demos, outtakes or other studio material, or of dishonest recordings of live performances. Music enthusiasts may use the term “bootleg” to differentiate these otherwise unavailable recordings from “pirated” copies of commercially released material, however these recordings are still covered by copyright regardless of their lack of formal release, and their distribution is still against the law (Parker, 1983). Sampling of copyrighted music for use in other works without authorization is also a form of copyright infringement. Some companies exploit this fact by attempting to sue the creators of the new work for copyright violation. Promotional screening DVDs distributed by motion picture studios (often for consideration for awards) are a frequent source of unauthorized copying when movies are still in theatrical release, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has attempted to restrict their use. Movies are also still copied by someone sneaking a camcorder into a motion picture theater and secretly taping the projection (also known as “camming”), although such copies are often of lesser quality than DVDs. Some copyright owners have responded to breaches by displaying warning notices on commercially sold DVDs; these warnings do not always give a fair picture of the purchaser’s legal rights, which in the US generally include the rights to sell, exchange, rent or loan a purchased DVD. “According the Straits Times, a copy of the most recent James Bond movie the “World is not Enough” was available for free on the Internet before its official release.” (Wall, 2001) This and similar other incidents have caused considerable concern to owners. When a creator is unable to profit from their making of a movie, it causes a massive financial loss.
Child pornography generally includes sexual images connecting both prepubescent and post-pubescent adolescent minors and computer-generated images with the intention of appearing to involve them. The majority possessors of child pornography who are arrested are found to possess images of prepubescent children; possessors of pornographic images of post-pubescent minors are less likely to be prosecuted, even though those images also reduce inside the statutes. Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry; one of the fastest increasing criminal segments taking place in the internet. Philip Jenkins notes that there is “overwhelming evidence that [child pornography] is all but impossible to obtain through non electronic means.” (Parker, 1983). The Internet has drastically changed how child pornography is reproduced and disseminated, and, according to the United States Department of Justice, resulted in a substantial increase in the “availability, accessibility, and volume of child pornography.” (Michael Knetzger, 2008). The production of child pornography has become very profitable and is no longer restricted to pedophiles.
Digital cameras and Internet distribution facilitated by the use of credit cards and the ease of transferring images across national borders has made it easier than ever before for users of child pornography to obtain the photographs and videos. The NCMEC estimated in 2003 that 20% of all pornography traded over the Internet was child pornography, and that since 1997 the number of child pornography images available on the Internet had increased by 1500%.
In 2007, the British-based Internet Watch Foundation reported that child pornography on the Internet is becoming more brutal and graphic, and the number of images depicting violent abuse has risen fourfold since 2003. The CEO stated “The worrying issue is the severity and the gravity of the images is increasing. We’re talking about prepubescent children being raped.” (Parker, 1983) About 80 percent of the children in the abusive images are female, and 91 percent appear to be children under the age of 12. Prosecution is difficult because multiple international servers are used, sometimes to transmit the images in fragments to evade the law. Some child pornographers also circumvent detection by using viruses to illegally gain control of computers on which they remotely store child pornography. In one case, a Massachusetts man was charged with possession of child pornography when hackers used his computer to access pornographic sites and store pornographic pictures without his knowledge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that if a user downloads child pornography from a file sharing network and possesses it in his “shared folder” without configuring the software to not share that content; he can be charged with distributing child pornography (Wall, 2001).
Regarding internet proliferation, the U.S. Department of Justice states that “At any one time there are estimated to be more than one million pornographic images of children on the Internet, with 200 new images posted daily.” (Parker, 1983). They also note that a single offender arrested in the U.K. possessed 450,000 child pornography images, and that a single child pornography site received a million hits in a month. Further, that much of the trade in child pornography takes place at hidden levels of the Internet, and that it has been estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 pedophiles involved in organized pornography rings around the world, and that one third of these operate from the United States. (Wall, 2001). In 2008 the Google search engine adapted a software program in order to faster track child pornography accessible through their site. The software is based in a pattern recognition engine and is helping to track down people who try to access child pornography sites.
“The deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child, with the intent of later having sexual contact, are known as child grooming” (Michael Knetzger, 2008). This involves psychological manipulation in the form of positive reinforcement, activities that are typically legal but later lead to sexual contact. This is done to gain the child’s trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child’s well-being. Additionally, a trusting connection with the relatives means the child’s parents are less expected to believe possible accusations.
Child pornography images are frequently shown to the child as part of the child grooming process. To establish an excellent connection with the child and the child’s family, a child groomer might do quite a few things. For example, they might take an undue attention in someone else’s child, to be the child’s “special” friend to gain the child’s trust. They might give offerings or money to the child for no apparent reason (toys, dolls, etc.). They may show pornography-videos or pictures-to the child, hoping to make it easy for the child to accept such acts, thus normalizing the behavior. People are very sick they may simply talk about sexual topics to interest the kid. These are just some of the methods a child groomer might use to gain a child’s trust and affection in order to allow them to do what they want. Hugging and kissing or other physical contact, even when the child doesn’t want it, can happen. To the groomer, this is a way to get close. They might talk about problems normally discussed between adults, or at least people of the same age. Topics might include marital problems and other conflicts. They may try to gain the child’s parents’ trust by befriending them, with the goal of easy access to the child. The child groomer might look for opportunities to have time alone with the child. This can be done by offering to babysit. The groomer may invite the child for sleepovers. This gives them the opportunity to sleep in the same room or even the same bed with the child. Sexual grooming of children also occurs on the Internet. Some abusers will pose as children online and make arrangements to meet with them in person. According to a 2003 New Zealand study, 23% of 7-10 year olds and 37% of those 16 or older reported meeting someone face to face that they met over the Internet.
In 2003, MSN implemented restrictions in their chat rooms to help protect children from adults seeking sexual conversations with them. In 2005, Yahoo! chat rooms were investigated by the New York State attorney General’s office for allowing users to create rooms whose names suggested that they were being used for this purpose. That October, Yahoo! agreed to “implement policies and procedures designed to ensure” that such rooms would not be allowed.
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An organization called Perverted-Justice (known as PJ) specializes in capturing persons who solicit PJ operatives posing as underage teens. To catch a predator is a television show based on such activities. An organization called Crisp Thinking specializes in anti-grooming activities by studying chat room and other Instant messaging logs with a special software that can identify when adults are trying to groom children.
Cyberterrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean “unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Michael Knetzger, 2008). Further, to qualify as cyberterrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property, or at least cause enough harm to generate fear. Attacks that lead to death or bodily injury, explosions, plane crashes, water contamination, or severe economic loss would be examples. Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyberterrorism, depending on their impact. Attacks that disrupt nonessential services or that are mainly a costly nuisance would not.
Cyberspace is constantly under assault. Cyber spies, thieves, saboteurs, and thrill seekers break into computer systems, steal personal data and trade secrets, vandalize Web sites, disrupt service, sabotage data and systems, launch computer viruses and worms, conduct fraudulent transactions, and harass individuals and companies. (Furnell, 2002) These attacks are facilitated with increasingly powerful and easy-to-use software tools, which are readily available for free from thousands of Web sites on the Internet.
Many of the attacks are serious and costly. The recent ILOVEYOU virus and variants, for example, was estimated to have hit tens of millions of users and cost billions of dollars in damage. The February denial-of-service attacks against Yahoo, CNN, eBay, and other e-commerce Web sites was estimated to have caused over a billion in losses. It also shook the confidence of business and individuals in e-commerce.
To understand the potential threat of cyberterrorism, two factors must be considered: first, whether there are targets that are vulnerable to attack that could lead to violence or severe harm, and second, whether there are actors with the capability and motivation to carry them out.
Looking first at vulnerabilities, several studies have shown that critical infrastructures are potentially vulnerable to cyberterrorist attack. Eligible Receiver, a “no notice” exercise conducted by the Department of Defense in 1997 with support from NSA red teams, found the power grid and emergency 911 systems had weaknesses that could be exploited by an adversary using only publicly available tools on the Internet (Wall, 2001). Although neither of these systems was actually attacked, study members concluded that service on these systems could be disrupted. Also in 1997, the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection issued its report warning that through mutual dependencies and interconnectedness, critical infrastructures could be vulnerable in new ways, and that vulnerabilities were steadily increasing, while the costs of attack were decreasing.
Although many of the weaknesses in computerized systems can be corrected, it is effectively impossible to eliminate all of them. Even if the technology itself offers good security, it is frequently configured or used in ways that make it open to attack. In addition, there is always the possibility of insiders, acting alone or in concert with other terrorists, misusing their access capabilities. According to Russia’s Interior Ministry Col. Konstantin Machabeli, the state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom, was hit by hackers who collaborated with a Gazprom insider. The hackers were said to have used a Trojan horse to gain control of the central switchboard which controls gas flows in pipelines, although Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer and the largest gas supplier to Western Europe, refuted the report
In conclusion, the violent pursuit of political goals using exclusively electronic methods is likely to be at least a few years into the future. However, the more general threat of cybercrime is very much a part of the digital landscape today. In addition to cyberattacks against digital data and systems, many people are being terrorized on the Internet today with threats of physical violence. On-line stalking, death threats, and hate messages are abundant. The Florida teen who threatened violence at Columbine High School in an electronic chat room is but one example. These crimes are serious and must be addressed. In so doing, we will be in a better position to prevent and respond to cyberterrorism if and when the threat becomes more serious.
In a matter of years, cybercrime has permeated many aspects of our society. Financial information and other personal information are susceptible to cyber criminals and their actions. Children, nowadays, need constant supervision on the Internet as these criminals seek to hunt and abuse innocent children. Each of these challenges presents the imperative for law enforcement to increase their ability to protect citizens against cyber crime. Perhaps, programs supported by law enforcement to train intelligent individuals with superior technological skills will not only provide law enforcement with skilled individuals to combat cybercrime but it may also prevent many of those people from becoming hackers in the first place.
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