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Essay/Term paper: Computer fraud and crimes

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Information Technology

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Computer Fraud and Crimes

In the world of computers, computer fraud and computer crime are very prevalent
issues facing every computer user. This ranges from system administrators to
personal computer users who do work in the office or at home. Computers without
any means of security are vulnerable to attacks from viruses, worms, and illegal
computer hackers. If the proper steps are not taken, safe computing may become
a thing of the past. Many security measures are being implemented to protect
against illegalities.

Companies are becoming more aware and threatened by the fact that their
computers are prone to attack. Virus scanners are becoming necessities on all
machines. Installing and monitoring these virus scanners takes many man hours
and a lot of money for site licenses. Many server programs are coming equipped
with a program called "netlog." This is a program that monitors the computer use
of the employees in a company on the network. The program monitors memory and
file usage. A qualified system administrator should be able to tell by the
amounts of memory being used and the file usage if something is going on that
should not be. If a virus is found, system administrators can pinpoint the user
who put the virus into the network and investigate whether or not there was any
malice intended.

One computer application that is becoming more widely used and, therefore, more
widely abused, is the use of electronic mail or email. In the present day,
illegal hackers can read email going through a server fairly easily. Email
consists of not only personal transactions, but business and financial
transactions. There are not many encryption procedures out for email yet. As
Gates describes, soon email encryption will become a regular addition to email
just as a hard disk drive has become a regular addition to a computer (Gates

Encrypting email can be done with two prime numbers used as keys. The public
key will be listed on the Internet or in an email message. The second key will
be private, which only the user will have. The sender will encrypt the message
with the public key, send it to the recipient, who will then decipher it again
with his or her private key. This method is not foolproof, but it is not easy to
unlock either. The numbers being used will probably be over 60 digits in length
(Gates p.98-99).

The Internet also poses more problems to users. This problem faces the home
user more than the business user. When a person logs onto the Internet, he or
she may download a file corrupted with a virus. When he or she executes that
program, the virus is released into the system. When a person uses the World
Wide Web(WWW), he or she is downloading files into his or her Internet browser
without even knowing it. Whenever a web page is visited, an image of that page
is downloaded and stored in the cache of the browser. This image is used for
faster retrieval of that specific web page. Instead of having to constantly
download a page, the browser automatically reverts to the cache to open the
image of that page. Most people do not know about this, but this is an example
of how to get a virus in a machine without even knowing it.

Every time a person accesses the Internet, he or she is not only accessing the
host computer, but the many computers that connect the host and the user. When
a person transmits credit card information, it goes over many computers before
it reaches its destination. An illegal hacker can set up one of the connecting
computers to copy the credit card information as it passes through the computer.
This is how credit card fraud is committed with the help of the Internet. What
companies such as Maxis and Sierra are doing are making secure sites. These
sites have the capabilities to receive credit card information securely. This
means the consumer can purchase goods by credit card over the Internet without
worrying that the credit card number will be seen by unauthorized people.

System administrators have three major weapons against computer crime. The
first defense against computer crime is system security. This is the many
layers systems have against attacks. When data comes into a system, it is
scanned for viruses and safety. Whenever it passes one of these security layers,
it is scanned again. The second resistance against viruses and corruption is
computer law. This defines what is illegal in the computer world. In the early
1980's, prosecutors had problems trying suspect in computer crimes because there
was no definition of illegal activity. The third defense is the teaching of
computer ethics. This will hopefully defer people from becoming illegal hackers
in the first place (Bitter p. 433). There are other ways companies can protect
against computer fraud than in the computer and system itself. One way to
curtail computer fraud is in the interview process and training procedures. If
it is made clear to the new employee that honesty is valued in the company, the
employee might think twice about committing a crime against the company.
Background checks and fingerprinting are also good ways to protect against
computer fraud.

Computer crime prevention has become a major issue in the computer world. The
lack of knowledge of these crimes and how they are committed is a factor as to
why computer crime is so prevalent. What must be realized is that the "weakest
link in any system is the human" (Hafner and Markoff p. 61). With the
knowledge and application of the preventative methods discussed, computer crime
may actually become an issue of the past.

Works Cited

Bitter, Gary G., ed. The MacMillian Encyclopedia of Computers. MacMillian
Publishing Company: New York, 1992.

Gates, William. The Road Ahead. New York : Penguin Books, 1995.

Hafner, Katie & John Markoff. Cyberpunk. New York : Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Romney, Marshall. "Computer Fraud – What Can Be Done About It?" CPA Journal
Vol. 65 (May 1995): p. 30-33.


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