Gives a brief outline of the meaning of computer crime and its origin.
Discusses the current state of cybercrime and look at the different federal laws that pertain to computer crime. It also gives a case study on a recent computer crime incident reported in the media.
Explains why there is still hope despite the seeming dark situation of the computer.
Computer crime refers to a situation where data in a computer is assessed without authorization. The access does not have to necessarily lead to the loss of records. In reality, the worst kind of computer crime is one where there are no signs that there was illegal access to data. Computer crime can be traced back to the early years of information technology. This practice was usually associated with criminals who would hack systems to change data for revenge or monetary gains. At first, criminals would physically destroy computers to destroy information that they did not want in the public domain. As more people became internet savvy, programmers began writing malevolent software to interfere with individual computers. This has evolved with time and today cybercrime is one of the leading non-violent crimes in history. (May 1.2b)
In the recent past, computers have become more affordable meaning that many people have now got unrestricted access to them. This unrestricted access provides a forum for latent criminals to carry out computer felonies. Computers carry very crucial information and securing it should be the top priority for every citizen. Almost every state has come up with legislation to help in fighting this heinous crime. Companies have also developed software to help in securing their data. Though these measures have helped to reduce computer crime, a lot still needs to be done if this act is to be stamped out completely. (Baker 54)
Naturally, the internet provides secrecy to its users making it hard for those carrying out computer crime to be apprehended. There is much US federal legislation that has been put in place to fight computer crime. The first major legislation to fight cybercrime is what is commonly referred to as the Wire Fraud Statute (WFS). This is legislation that forbids the use of communication wires used in global trade to commit a crime. For it to be exercised, one has to produce proof that international lines were used to commit a crime. Though this law is still used in the prosecution of computer crime offenders, it has many shortcomings since one does not need a communication line to commit a crime using a computer. (May 1.3a)
Another example of computer crime legislation in the US is the Computer Crime and Abuse Act (CFAA) passed in 1984. This bill requires one to prove that one gained access to a computer without being authorized to do so. The shortcoming of this law is that it makes people shift their focus from the crime to the mode of entry. It’s well known that many computer crimes are committed by insiders. This makes it so hard for people within the place where the crime was committed to being investigated. It’s no wonder then that very few people have been prosecuted using this law. In 1994, this law was however amended to prosecute those people who access a computer with the intent of introducing corrupt programs in the computer. (Computer Crimes)
In the year 1996, another law known as the National Information Infrastructure Act (NIIA) was passed. This law made it illegal for one to access information on a prohibited computer even if the intent was not to gain. The CFAA law before it could only prosecute one if they accessed information on a prohibited computer with a view of gaining from the information. Another legislation passed was the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) passed in 1986. This law made it illegal for someone to seize communication being transmitted without permission. In 2002, the Cyber Security Enhancement Act (CSEA) granting extensive powers to the police was passed. Ten years ago, another law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed to protect people’s copyright laws to deal with the then-new technology. (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
There have been numerous cases reported in the media where people have gained access to a company’s record and caused untold losses to the organization. One such example was where a disgruntled worker introduced a program that replaced the existing system files with outdated ones during the process of creating backup systems. The worker also used the same system to corrupt the files while away on holiday. This corruption of files caused the company’s filing system to crash and put its production to a halt. After he was dismissed, the same worker gave instructions to his colleague who did not have any knowledge of computers to crash system files. This and many related computer crime cases have caused companies untold loses and calls for more vigilance on the government’s side to curb these acts. (Computer Crimes)
Although cybercrime is becoming more pronounced, it does not mean that people have resigned themselves to it. The government has tightened the noose to make sure that no individual gets away with this kind of crime. The enacting of legislation to fight cybercrime is certainly an important step in eradicating this plague that was once threatening to compromise the essence of information technology. With computers having become a part of our daily lives, all eyes are now on the government to ensure that crooks do not cripple this important sector.
Baker, Glenn D. “Trespassers Will be Prosecuted: Computer Crime in the 1990’s.” Computer/Law Journal Vol. 12, No (1993):42- 68.Print.
Computer Crimes. “2003 CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey”. Web. 2004.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.” 1998. Web. 2003.
May, Maxim. “Federal Computer Crimes Laws,” GSEC Practical 1.4b. 2004. Print.