Computer crimes need to be prevented and halted through increased computer network security measures as well as tougher laws and enforcement of those laws in cyberspace

Essay by Ryan JesseCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 1996

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Computer crime is generally defined as any crime accomplished through special knowledge of computer technology. All that is required is a personal computer, a modem, and a phone line. Increasing instances of white-collar crime involve computers as more businesses automate and information becomes an important asset. Computers are objects of crime when they or their contents are damaged, as when terrorists attack computer centers with explosives or gasoline, 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 used to plan or control such criminal acts as complex embezzlements that might occur over long periods of time, or when a computer operator uses a computer to steal valuable information from an employer.

Computers have been used for most kinds of crime, including fraud, theft, larceny, embezzlement, burglary, sabotage, espionage, murder, and forgery, since the first cases were reported in 1958. One study of 1,500 computer crimes established that most of them were committed by trusted computer users within businesses; persons with the requisite skills, knowledge, access, and resources. Much of known computer crime has consisted of entering false data into computers, which is simpler and safer than the complex process of writing a program to change data already in the computer. With the advent of personal computers to manipulate information and access computers by telephone, increasing numbers of crimes--mostly simple but costly electronic trespassing, copyrighted-information piracy, and vandalism--have been perpetrated by computer hobbyists, known as 'hackers,' who display a high level of technical expertise. For many years, the term hacker defined someone who was a...