Technology / Computer Crime Hackers And Security Measures From Research Assistance

Computer Crime Hackers And Security Measures From Research Assistance

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Autor:  anton  13 September 2010
Tags:  Computer,  Hackers,  Security,  Measures,  Research
Words: 4468   |   Pages: 18
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Abstract

A diffuse group of people often called “hackers” has been characterised as unethical, irresponsible, and a serious danger to society for actions related to breaking into computer systems. In this essay I try to construct a picture of what is and includes a computer crime as well as a portray of hackers, their concerns, and the way in which hacking takes place. What I intend to argue is that, in their majority, hackers are learners and explorers who want to help rather than cause damage. Furthermore, my research also suggests that the general practice of hacking is a part of larger conflicts that we are experiencing at every level of society and business in an information age in which many people are not computer literate. These conflicts lie on the issue of whether information should be made publicly available or not (centralise or decentralise government) and on issues of law enforcement. Hackers have raised serious issues about values and practices in an information society.

Introduction

It is true that computers and telecommunication networks have become a growing aspect of our society and of course of our lives. This type of technology is used to support unlawful as well as legal activities. Personal computers and especially the Internet consist of a collection of tools, which attract people from all social classes. People like housewives, workers and chief executives. Nowadays criminals are a group of people that are also attracted by today’s technology. The Internet can be used for criminal purposes in different ways: from a simple ‘blackmail’ to the most perplex crime like money laundering.

“Technology can be applied as easily by the criminal and terrorist as it can by the authorities; and very often the criminal has greater desire to profit from that technology than have the authorities themselves” .

Furthermore, companies, institutions and private lives, especially in western countries, are prevalent by computers, Internet and other relevant technologies. Business operations without the support of digital technology do not exist. For instance, banks distribute funds through computer networks. Banks and credit card companies are quickly adopting automated payment systems. The computers are the essential basis of this cashless society. Millions of computers are needed to operate these automated payment systems (networks). On the other hand, criminals for different reasons can use similar networks also: to hide unlawful software or to distribute illegal material such as child pornography. In these two cases we can see two opposite sides of the use of information technology. From the hacker’s, and generally persons’ who are related with the “digital crime”, point of view computers help to carry out ‘illegal activities’. From the business perspective computers are means of accomplishing ‘legal activities’.

But what is really legal and illegal in today’s society? There are certainly some acts like pornography, which is illegal, but sometimes we must ask ourselves about what is legal and what not.

As mentioned above Internet not only attracts individuals with different social status but commercial organisations as well. This is a great motivation for criminals whose aim is to make profit using unlawful actions. These could be computer hackers, fraudulent traders, software pirates and many more.

In this essay I will try to discuss about computer crime and hackers and how the society should take measures for the protection of individuals and organizations. This paper is a report of what I have discovered in the early stages of hacking. I have concentrated my attention in answering some questions such as: what is hacking, who are the hackers, what motivates them and what is the future of hacking. I give also some useful details about computer crime especially its definition and some important categories of it. In the second section, I will try to cover some issues such as system security. This includes all problems that are associated with decisions taken by governments and firms for security measures, which are very interesting and important for the future of the information age.

SECTION 1

Computer crime

1) What is a computer crime?

Computer crime is a more serious problem than most people think it is. “According to the FBI, the average take in bank robbery is $4000; the average computer heist exceeds $400.000. The American society for industrial security calls computer-related crimes a multibillion dollar annual business” . Although a lot of people agree that computer crimes are increasing rapidly, there is a disagreement on what the computer crime involve. That is because the technology and the methods used by criminals are continuously changed. Therefore, there are various definitions. But if somebody wants to do a research about the law in different countries he/she will realise that computer is either the conveyance used to perpetrate the act or the target of the act. Thus, “computer crime consist of two kinds of activities:

a) The use of a computer to perpetrate acts of deceits, theft or concealment that are intended to provide financial business-related, property or service advantages and

b) Threats to the computer itself, such as theft of hardware or software, sabotage and demands ransom” .

Obviously, it is necessary to mention that crime vary so widely between different types of society. For example, conditions and results of crime are different in a small-scale pre-industrial society than to big modern cities. A social atmosphere is more restrict and it is difficult to get away from relatives, neighbours and so on. On the contrary, the conditions in big cities are more elastic and people have easy access to targets without encounter social criticism. They can hide behind the anonymity that large cities offer.

But who are the victims of the computer crimes? The question is not difficult to answer. We are living in a capitalistic society, which is dominated by the commercialisation. Therefore, we can say that the first target is traditionally corporations and government agencies. Every single person who owns a computer and is connected to the Internet is a potential target. There are no exceptions in cyber world.

The main reason that this happened is “anyone” can do it. Any person who is equipped with a personal computer and has some knowledge on computer hardware and software could become a computer criminal.

2) Briefly history of computer crime

People think that computer crime is a fact that started around of 1980s that is not true. We know that the first recorded computer crime took place in 1958 and the first prosecution for computer crime came about in 1966. “A few years after the IBM begun marketing its first line of business computers. By the mid-1970s scores of such crimes were being reported every year and yearly losses were estimated to be as high as $300 million” [Mandell, 1992]. Computer criminals are active for more than 30 years. At this point it is useful to collocate some past important cases:

“1964: Robert F. Hancock attempted to sell $5 million worth of ill-gotten software to the Texaco company.

1970: The Fresno state College computers were bombed, with damages exceeding $400.000. Also, two employees of a Swedish company sold copies of their firm's computer tapes to competitors.

1971: An English salary clerk used his company's computer to embezzle a mere Ј720. In the United States, disgruntled employees of the Honeywell Corporation sabotaged the Metropolitan life computer network and made it inoperable for more than a month.

1986: The American Medical Association filed a lawsuit charging the GTE Telnet communications Corporation with sabotaging its on-line medical information service. A financial analyst changed the district of Columbia treasure's secret computer code to deny his superiors access to financial codes” .

These are small sample of what has happen in a cyber world throughout the years, but the majority of people did not give any attention, at least not until hacking was widely reported by the media around the world.

3) Categories of computer crimes

Computer crimes can be divided into four main categories: Sabotage, Theft of services, Theft of property and Financial crimes. More analytically:

a) Sabotage is the type of criminal activity, which causes a total devastation or damage in a computer system (hardware). Computers are targets of sabotage especially at the periods of political commotions. Other kind of sabotage is some self-replicating programs (viruses) that cause damage in the contents of the computer’s hard disk or floppy disk drive as well as infects other programs. “Perhaps the most widely reported virus attack occurred in October 1987, when large numbers of microcomputers users began to report problems with their data disk. A quick inspection of the volume labels of these disks showed that they all possessed the same volume label “@brain” . These programs have the ability to avoid their detection. However, new techniques are continuously developed to deal with this problem.

b) Theft of services is a very common problem. In this kind of computer crime, users can gain unauthorized (illegal) access to a computer system and be able to access all kinds of information that were supposed to be confidential. They could also take advantage of an unauthorised entry to a system by using the facilities and services that the system offers. Unauthorized access to computer systems is primarily committed by juvenile hackers, who have a variety of motives. These are related to their willingness to penetrate successfully a company’s security system. They view it as a great challenge. At this time it is helpful to say that for hackers it is easier to gain unauthorized access to a time-sharing system rather than to a close system.

c) The most obvious computer crime that involves crimes of property is the theft of computer equipment itself. By the rapid advance of technology computer equipment and components become smaller and smaller in size. Thus this increasing miniaturization of computer components and consequently of home computers facilitates the occurrence of more thefts. These types of crime are easily categorised into traditional concepts of crime and are not of unique legal complexity. A more complicated issue is what actually represents property in the context of computer crimes. In different countries different courts have come to conclusions that vary a lot.

Computer crimes of property theft very frequently involve merchandise from a company whose orders are processed by computers. Internal personnel that have a thorough knowledge of the company’s operation carry out most of hese crimes. But this does not mean that these crimes are limited to those within the company. A computer service having specialized programs but poor security may open itself up to unauthorized access by outsiders. All that an outsiders needs to gain access to the systems is to be in the possession to the proper codes. This could be done in a number of ways, such as, stealthy observation of a legitimate user logging on from a remote terminal or by using remote computers to test for possible access codes.

d) Financial computer crimes are, of course, the most serious problem in the information age. With the growing of telecommunication and the diffusion of microcomputers, the majority of enterprises and banks distribute large amounts of funds through electronic networks. Therefore, a good opportunity and motivation appears for fraud and hackers. Obviously, these transactions in an economic area tempt criminals for specific reasons. Because the result of the arithmetic operation transferred or processed by computer system are extremely high totals. Electronic money is very easy to be created by the perpetrator. This field of computer area will also be the main area of computer fraud in the future.

Table 1: categories of important computer crimes.

Categories of computer crimesSabotageDevastation or damage in a computer hardwareTheft of servicesUnauthorized (illegal) access in a computer systemTheft of propertyTheft of computer materialFinancial crimesTheft of money

Hackers in cyber world

1) What is hacker?

The term "hacker" of course has various meanings. Sometimes it implies a computer programmer who spends a lot of hours working on a personal computer, working on different types of coding and creating technological “fixes” and “patches” for existing software. This kind of activity is not illegal and is encourage by the employers.

In a different sense, the term hacking is used to signify criminal activity: the effort of the person to perpetrate through personal computer for the purpose of unlawful activities. In other words, hackers are anyone who brakes into a computer without authorisation. This type of hacking denotes the necessity for new security systems and legislation to protect people and enterprises from these activities.

Hacking really came into existence after 1980s as a result of telecommunication growth as well as high computer literacy. Hacking include a broad-range of computer-helped activities. Some of them are legal other unlawful and a lot are unethical. Some experts are saying: hacking is a multifarious phenomenon. At this time, it is helpful to state that hacking is totally different and separated from fraud. Fraud is a human activity which one person has speculative scope or tries to take advantage of others. Finally we can say that all hackers cannot be characterised as benevolent nor nasty or nuisance. We should all bear in mind that it is very risky to connect a computer system to a network, especially the Internet, when there are not all the security systems to protect from hacking.

2) Motivations for the hackers

Hacking may be practiced for several reasons. The most important reasons, according to some scientists who have a lot of experience in this subject, are psychological: “It is this psychological compulsion that can induce some hackers to see every computer system as a challenge, a configuration to be tested, broken or cracked. We have already seen that some hackers strive to access closed computer systems not for pecuniary gain but as intellectual exercise. A stretching of their own programming prowess” . The majority of hackers when they break into a system, their only objective is to learn and not to cause damage. But we should wonder: is that crime? For example, when a hacker penetrates a system and downloads information from it, in essence he or she copies information. No theft takes place because the information still exists in the system. Moreover, information is not concerned as property. It is also believed that hackers very often come from problematic families. “Hackers are school dropouts and job changers who turned to computing as a way of outsmarting everyone except the other members of their social group” . Psychologists, sociologist and other scientist view hacking as a computer addiction. Hackers are individuals who use the computers as substitute: computers do not have the perplexity of human relations (antisocial behaviour). Therefore there is a psychology of hacking as there is for every type of human behaviour, regardless of criminal behaviour or not.

3) Hackers: Criminals or not?

Hackers have a negative public image and identity. The majority of people believe that hackers are immoral and irresponsible individuals. Is that true? “We might ask ourselves whether, for the shake of balance, a truly democratic society should possess a core technically gifted but recalcitrant people. Given that more and more information about individuals is now being stored on computers, often without their knowledge or consent, is it not reassuring that some citizens are able to penetrate these database to find out what is going on?” Therefore, it is realisable that hackers have an important role in our society and aid to dodge a more centralised government by breaking into their systems and sharing information with other people. On the other hand, absolute decentralisation can easily drive humanity to very negative results. Consequently, democracy consists several kinds of people with different cultural, religion and ethnic backgrounds as well as people who have opposing political sights. Every citizen in our society must try to always keep a balance between illegal activities of hackers and activities that are serving the general public’s interest.

4) The future of the hacking

Increasing computerisation, especially in economic transactions, as well as the emergence of new computer applications such as electronic home banking may lead to an increase in the number of offences and losses. In addition to this, the growth of the electronic technology associated with cheap modems and personal computers open the possibilities of a computer crime and every kind of hacking: pure or malicious. “The FBI said that the dangers of cyber crime were rising because of the increased availability of hacking tools on the Internet as well as electronic hardware such as radio frequency jamming equipment.” On the other hand, the internet news groups began to make available in public new sophisticated “smart” programs which have the ability of “cracking”: braking the codes of every type of program. These programs are easy to use and are very helpful tools for anyone that wants to break the security of systems’ software.

Finally, it is observed that in the next decade hacking’s form will change. It will become a tool used by terrorists and will by used more strategically with political motivations.

SECTION 2

1) Public perception and necessity for security measures

The explosion in the use of the Internet, about how some services can be regulated, has seen an effervescent argument in all over the world. Legislation plays an important role of how the humanity can decrease the digital crimes. Computer crimes is a world wide problem because of the rapid growth of the digital technology and especially in the networks field, which brings hackers and organised crime from all over the world together.

It is commonly known that there are difficulties in the detection of hackers or other persons who commit computer crimes. A truly sophisticated intrusion leaves no track, no proof of a crime. On the other hand, how many crimes can be characterised as “perfect crimes?” Computer security industry knows that there is a huge number of “perfect crimes”. If the crime cannot be perceived, with any evidence, the most likely possibility is to be overlooked. Another aspect of the problem is that companies, which are based on customers’ confidence, are afraid to declare in public that are targeted by hackers. Perhaps, all these companies think that they may lose the customers’ trust or to be accused of having inadequate security systems.

In addition to this, companies have no confidence in the police, because they believe that police is inexperienced and unskilled in the field of computer crime: “ In the UK, this might well be a fair perception: the numbers of computer specialist officers and of successful prosecution are very small. In the USA, it is less fair: the FBI secret service and military investigators have gained experience and capability very rapidly-and willing both to work with and to educate local forces”.

Consequently, it is very crucial that the police must have the experience and skills for the detection of computer crime: “ In a survey conducted by the Ontario provincial police: 321 responses received from 648 companies questioned, only 13 companies reported experience of a loss through computer crime; only 5 of these 13 incidents were reported to the police at the time, and it seems that only three prosecutions were undertaken.”

All of the above show us the necessity for international co-operative measures. However, there is an international and national dialogue between industries, users and governments to encounter the computer-related crime through security systems.

2) Computer security

Computer security includes the technical and managerial measures, which need to maintain the safety of computer-based systems. According to Mandell S, there are physical menaces to security like fire, physical disaster, environmental problems and sabotage:

Fire: Is an important problem for computer security. This happens because most of the computer’s parts consist of flammable materials like papers or magnetic types. Furthermore, water is impossible to be used as counter measure because it can cause serious damage on hardware. Some kind of extinguisher is very effective, like chemical gas, but is very costly.

Natural disaster: Earthquakes floods or hurricanes have impaired a large number of computer centres. The best protection is to choose a location, which is not prone to natural disasters.

Environmental problems: Computers are usually installed in non-specialised buildings for this purpose. This is an aspect, which is not originally planned (accommodate computers) and may cause environmental problems. For example, data on magnetic media can be destroyed by magnetic fields created by electric motors in the vicinity of the computer room. Some other environmental problems could be power failures or external radiation.

Sabotage: sabotage stands for the greatest physical risk to computer installations. Saboteurs may cause great damage to computer centres with little risk of apprehension. For example, magnets can be used to mess up coding on tapes, bombs can be planted and communication lines can be cut.

3) Security measures against hacking

Additionally, in order to protect computer systems from natural disasters, enterprises must take measures about unauthorised access by hackers, frauds or internal sabotage by personnel. For instance, people who work in a company as chief executives and have special access codes may steal important and valuable information. Insurance companies and banks are very prone at this kind of activity.

One method to protect computer-based systems from unwelcome visitors is to record all the activities, which occur in the system. This method is called security events: “this is a major requirement in the case of those systems accredit within the official procedures for government or military use – and an important element within the financial world.” This type of method can record all the moves of the malicious hacker. Although this method is very credible, many levels of defence which called “defence of depth” is also a significant element for system security: “ It might not be possible to stop the hacker, but it is usually possible to slow them down long enough to track and record their activities – and even to alert operators who can disconnect the hacker.” The more the technology flourishes the computer security industry discovers new protection methods: “the best speech recognition systems offer 99 per cent success rate in recognise individual voices. Manufactures should be encourage to take these and other biometrics methods to a high level of efficiency.” (Financial Times, 4/12/93). Finding new ways to protect citizens from malicious hackers is an important step for the future of the electronic commerce.

4) Hackers - Internet and law

One of the most vital issues in which there is an argument about internet legislation is among the requirements of governments and companies: “ this exemplified by arguments over the use of encryption, with companies saying they should be allowed to protect information-one of the most valuable assets- by encrypting it, and governments arguing that in the fight against crime, they must have the right to control the use of encryption, and to monitor and decrypt Internet traffic.”(Financial Times, 1/04/1998).

On the other hand, some governments decided to vote a draft about hacking. The most serious contraventions would carry a maximum five-year penalty. In spite of these difficulties, in some cases, there is perfect conduct between countries and organisations. For instance, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is an organisation, which is associated with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the metropolitan police in the UK. The scope of the IWF is to oversee and hinder the use of Internet to transmit unethical and unlawful material, in the UK. The initial priority of IWF is to stop the child pornography. In this situation, the advantage is that if IWF in the UK finds illegal material, which comes from a site in France, then it would be possible for the organisation to give a relevant report in France.

Finally, as we have seen up to now some aspects of the Internet need the extension of today’s relevant laws concerning hacking and information protection, as in the most of cases the computer crime is covered by existing laws.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Internet presents some enormous challenges in relation to hacking. The issues of illegal acts, which may simply be unsuitable for companies or other organisations, raise various issues and require several responses. But in my point of view, through the industry’s law enforcement agencies, if community groups and government work together there is the assurance that the responses would be practical proportionate and workable in the new information age.

Hackers say that it is our social responsibility to share information because information hoarding and disinformation cause crimes. However, the ethic of resource and information sharing is different with computer security policies. These are based on authorisation and "need to know" basis. It is important at this point to examine the differences between the standards of hackers, systems managers, users and the public. These differences may represent a breakdown in current practices, and may present new opportunities to design better policies and mechanisms for making computer security more safe and information more widely available.

I began my investigation on hackers asking the question: who are they and what motives they have. My investigation also continued by a wider question: is it legal to have access and knowledge on information? As I have mentioned previously the majority of hackers does not have malicious purpose. The answers to these questions are crucial because they tell us whether our policies and practices serve us or not. The issue is not simply concerning hackers vs. system managers’ security or law enforcement; it is a much more larger question about values and practices in an information society.

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