Computer crime is generally defined as any crime accomplished through special knowledge of computer technology. Increasing instances of white-collar crime involve computers as more businesses automate and the information held by the computers becomes an important asset. Computers can also become objects of crime when they or their contents are damaged, for example when vandals attack the computer itself, or when a 'computer virus' (a program capable of altering or erasing computer memory) is introduced into a computer system.
As subjects of crime, computers represent the electronic environment in which frauds are programmed and executed; an example is the transfer of money balances in accounts to perpetrators' accounts for withdrawal. Computers are instruments of crime when they are used to plan or control such criminal acts. Examples of these types of crimes are complex embezzlements that might occur over long periods of time, or when a computer operator uses a computer to steal or alter valuable information from an employer.
Variety and Extent
Since the first cases were reported in 1958, computers have been used for most kinds of crime, including fraud, theft, embezzlement, burglary, sabotage, espionage, murder, and forgery. One study of 1,500 computer crimes established that most of them were committed by trusted computer users within businesses i.e. persons with the requisite skills, knowledge, access, and resources. Much of known computer crime has consisted of entering false data into computers. This method of computer crime is simpler and safer than the complex process of writing a program to change data already in the computer.
Now that personal computers with the ability to communicate by telephone are prevalent in our society, increasing numbers of crimes have been perpetrated by computer hobbyists, known as 'hackers,' who display a high level of technical expertise. These 'hackers' are able to manipulate...