Electronic or cyber crime is a criminal activity, committed through the use of information technologies. Economies worldwide, business and individuals are effected by electronic crime increasingly more often every year. According to Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2008 the number of electronic crimes in the USA has increased from 207 to 275 thousand, and resulted in a total loss of 264.6 million dollars (Limbach, n.d.).
Multiple types of computer crime include cyber theft, cyber terrorism, creation of obscene or offensive content, harassment, drug trafficking, spam, information warfare, phishing scams, spreading computer viruses and malware.
Types of Electronic Crime
Computer hackers use numerous methods to steal identities, break passwords and credit card numbers. In order to execute it they apply remote access programs like “trojan” and “worm”, or conduct phishing on the Internet to attract potential credit card holders to their website. In this way they not only steal money from an account, but ruin person’s credit and ability to obtain credit loans in the future. Credit card fraud is the most common Internet crime because 95% of all deals are made using credit cards (Krebs, 2009). Since consumers cannot control the way companies store their private information in databases, it becomes significantly hard for an individual to reduce the risk of identity theft. In any case each person should take precautions and never give access to his/her credit card to other people; be careful while entering pin-code, and do it quickly, preferably pressing numbers with more than one finger; notice possible micro-cameras, that can be installed on the top of automatic cash terminals.
This type of fraud is related to spam that all Internet users receive every day. Frequently emails are sent from fake commercial or personal addresses, advertising products or investment offers. Spam senders buy private email addresses, create huge databases and send thousands of emails in a short period of time. Email fraud has to be under jurisdiction of web-police that in many countries simply does not exist or does not have enough knowledge or recourses to investigate this type of cyber crime on high level.
Computer terrorism is a deliberate politically founded attack of computer information, computer net or system, which poses a threat to life and well-being of people, provided that these activities are conducted, aiming at destroying public safety, intimidating of people, or provoking armed conflict.
Cyber terrorism became one of the most dangerous kinds of cyber crime. Computer virus “I love you” is one of the examples of such terrorism. American group “Computer Economic” claims that this virus became the most harmful act of cyber terrorism ever registered in human history. During the first five days of its existence it crashed forty-five million computer networks and programs, even in the Pentagon and British parliament. Various ways to fight against cyber terrorism include effective cooperation with other countries and their special cybercrime combat units, as well as expand and strengthen international cooperation on legal aid matters connected to computer crime combat (Golubev, n.d.).
Obscene or Offensive Content
Spreading unlawful content means creating Internet websites with child pornography, blasphemous or racist content, or any other information that can cause cross-cultural or cross-religious hatred. There are no universal laws that would determine legitimacy of such content. Every country has its own legislation regulating this kind of issues. As for child pornography, it is illegal in most counties of the world. In the United States it is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children. The violation of this law by consuming child pornography can lead maximum five years in federal prison, and up to fifteen years for distribution of it.
Drug traders create websites where they sell illegal substances, or send enciphered email to potential consumers. Internet investigation of 2008 in the USA found 365 websites, where people could buy forbidden drugs freely (Busko, 2008). Some of the drug traffickers meet with buyers in special chat rooms or internet cafes to arrange their deals.
Computer attack on embassies and foreign ministries, coming from enemy countries, terrorist groups or individual hackers are called cyber or informational warfare. This term first appeared in 2007, after multiple information attacks on American embassy in Estonia (Bloomfield, 2007). This kind of warfare can deprive population of public transportation, elevators and communication. It can happen because critical infrastructure is connected to informational space, and becomes vulnerable to cyber piracy.
Harmful viruses, created by hackers, are able to jump from one communication system to another, spreading like infection. Viruses cannot be located at the time, because they are frequently used in combination with “logic bombs” or “time bombs”, which are able to hide the virus during a certain period of time. Real troubles appear as soon as it starts taking over the control and infecting programs, or even operational systems or web drivers. Quality licensed virus guard together with a “firewall” can protect computers from dangerous viruses and ensure their long-term use.
Computer Crime Counteraction
A research conducted by Dataquest Inc in March 2003 showed that the vast majority of companies are not able to fight against computer attacks and minimize their loss. As a result, 1/3 companies have lost valuable information and 24% of them failed to develop an action plan in case of a similar situation in the future (Lack of Disaster Plans, 2003).
Professional approach to computer security matters within companies solves the problem by creating unique and complicated passwords, or setting strict corporate rules and punishment for employees. Nevertheless these measures do not guarantee absolute security for a company because “internal” hackers, namely company employees themselves, are more dangerous than “external” hackers.
To effectively combat cyber crime is imperative to understand specific reasons for its spread, and use specific means to overcome it. In the beginning of 2003 the national system of cyber crime counteraction was created in the United States. It is described in “National Cyber security Strategy” and “National Strategy for Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures”, where Critical infrastructures are shown as “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law passed by the US Congress in 1986 over time became a part of the US Code, where in paragraph 1030 (a) (4) computer fraud is defined as intentional unauthorized access with intention to obtain anything of value. The punishment for this crime is a fine or/and imprisonment for not more than 10 years.
At present there are no less than six cyber crime federal laws operating in the United States. They are meant to fight against crime and protect information and telecommunication systems. However in each state there exist own special computer crime laws. For instance, computer crime section of Texas Penal Code includes only one type, defined as “intentional access to the computer, computer net or computer system without owner’s consent”. At the same time the California Penal Code contains a whole list of electronic crimes (paragraph 502).
New anti-terrorism US legislation, passed in January 2003, implies a severe punishment system for computer crime, which are compared to grave federal crimes and acts of terrorism, and can result in a life sentence or long-term incarceration.
Progress granted humankind with immeasurable achievements and at the same time created electronic crime, which is viewed as increasing threat not only for the security of separate countries, but for the whole world community. Spam and pornography is imposed to users every day more often. Social crime shifted to the Internet, took a form of cyber crime, and created new dangerous threats such as information warfare and cyber terrorism.
Computer crime is an issue of the outmost importance to the world governments. Every country has its own experience and laws to counteract cyber crime, as well as every modern person is aware of the methods to protect one’s own identity and computer from hacking.
Bloomfield, A. (2007). Russia accused over Estonian ‘cyber-terrorism’. The Telegraph. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1551850/Russia-accused-over-Estonian-cyber-terrorism.html
Busko, M. (2008). Internet trafficking of controlled prescription drugs remains extensive.
Medscape Today. Retrieved November 30, 2010 from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/577728
Golubev, V. (n.d.). Cyber terrorism as a new form of terrorism. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from www.crime-research.org/library/Gol_tem3_eng.htm
Krebs, B. (2009). Investment firms report increased debit and credit card fraud. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2009/05/usg_credit_debit_card_fraud_re.html
Limbach, J. (n.d.). Internet crime on rise. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2010/03/internet_crime.html
Study Shows Lack of IT Disaster Plans. (2003). Retrieved November 30, 2010, from http://www.idg.net/ic_1192210_9677_1-5046.html