Computer Crime

In today’s society our most valuable commodity is not grain, steel or even
technology; it is information. Because of computer networks, just about everyone
can now access an astounding range of information. The Internet is
international, even though 80 percent of the Internet use occurs in the United

States, and a staggering amount of information on every subject imaginable is
available for free. Because so many people now have access, computer crimes have
become more frequent. Everyone with a computer and a modem can commit a computer
crime if so inclined. Anyone, conceivably, could become a "white collar"
computer criminal. When the term "white collar" crime came into wide spread
use several decades ago, it was thought that certain crimes were committed by
persons whom no one would normally suspect of criminal behavior: professional,

"white collar" workers. In the late 1990’s, however, the term "white
collar" is somewhat inaccurate. The playing field has been leveled by the
widespread use of computers. Now "white collar crime" tends to mean simply"non violent crime" or "economic crime." As technology becomes
increasingly accessible to more and more people, it also becomes a potential
tool for increasing numbers of criminals. Most computer crimes do not involve
violence but rather greed, pride, or play on some character weakness of the
victim. They are based on dishonesty and not force. For these reasons, computer
crimes are considered white collar. Just as the term "white collar crime"
designates several kinds of crime, the term computer crime also designated
several types of crime. It includes crimes that are committed with a computer,
crimes that occur in cyber space, and crimes committed against a computer. Some
of the crimes are completely new; while others are older crimes that merely use
the computer as a tool. The endless and constant growing variety of computer
crimes makes it difficult to pass laws that adequately cover new computer
crimes. Some crimes such as embezzlement, wire fraud, and forgery, are already
covered under existing law. Others, such as cyber vandalism, cyber terrorism,
and cyber espionage, are relatively new. For these newer crimes, the letter of
the existing law sometimes does not allow prosecution of what clearly is
criminal behavior. Employees and ex-employees of the victimized company commit
most "white collar crimes". Likewise about 75 to 80 percent of prosecuted
computer crimes are committed by current or former employees. There are many
different kinds of computer crimes ranging from identity theft to sexual
harassment to otherwise ordinary "white collar" crimes that happen to
involve a computer. The most common form is online theft and fraud. Phreaks,
crackers, and sometimes hackers illegally access and use voice mail, e-mail, and
network access accounts-which constitute toll fraud or wire fraud. Long distance
access codes are in great demand by the hackers, crackers, phone phreaks and
street criminal. Some cyber-criminals obtain the codes by "shoulder surfing"
or looking over the shoulder of unwary people in phone booths. One reason that
this is a common is a common form of crime among hackers and phone phreaks is
because they tend to run up enormous phone bills pursuing their hobbies for 10
– 12 hours a day. Others obtain the codes from "pirate" electronic
bulletin boards, where they are posted in exchange for free software, credit
card numbers or other information. Software piracy is another growing and
seemingly insurmountable problem. It is illegal under American Copyright Laws,
but most software piracy actually takes place overseas. Federal copyright laws
are often insufficient even to prosecute United States citizens, as illustrated
by the now famous case of David La Macchia. La Macchia, a student at

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, distributed free software through a
bulletin board service on a M.I.T computer. After a FBI probe La Macchia was
indited on 1994 for conspiracy to committee fraud. The software he offered
reportedly had a total value of over one million dollars, but La Macchia argued
that he had not distributed the software for financial gain and therefore could
not have violated the federal copyright laws. The case was dismissed. One of the
most freighting computer crimes is identity theft. This kind of fraud is much
easier than it was once, because a wealth of personnel information is available
online for free, and even more personal information is available for a small
fee. Now that drivers license numbers are also stored on computers, which a re
usually part of a larger network, a persons physical characteristics-eye color,
height, and persons physical characteristics-are also available. Magnetic strips
on credit cards and ATM cards require computers to read