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Saturday, 8 September 2012


A comprehensive article that touches on cyber-crime laws, the limits to overcoming cyber-crime and the opportunity in the collective security of the human race.

With the advent of the computer age, legislatures have been struggling to redefine the law to fit crimes perpetuated by computer criminals. This crime is amongst the newest and most constantly evolving areas of the law in many jurisdictions. The rise of technology and online communication has not only produced a dramatic increase in the incidence of criminal activity, it has also resulted in the emergence of what appears to be some new varieties of criminal activity. Both the increase in the incidence of criminal activity and the possible emergence of new varieties of criminal activity pose challenges for legal systems, as well as for law enforcement.

The news said that another person had their identity stolen. It happened again. You might even know of someone that had it happen to them. We often hear of percentages - and they are surprisingly high. Enforcement is taking place, but we have to wonder if computer crime laws are really having any effect against cyber crime.

Defining Cyber Crime.
Computer crime refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Net-crime refers to criminal exploitation of the Internet. Cyber-crimes are defined as: "Offenses that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (SMS/MMS)"

Hacking has a rather simple definition to it. Basically it is defined as the unauthorized use of a computer - especially when it involves attempting to circumvent the security measures of that computer, or of a network. 

Beyond this, there are two basic types of hacking. Some only hack because they want to see if they can do it - it is a challenge to them. For others, however, it becomes an attack, and they use their unauthorized access for destructive purposes. Hacking occurs at all levels and at all times - by someone, for some reason. It may be a teen doing it to gain peer recognition, or, a thief, a corporate spy, or one nation against another. 

Effectiveness of Computer Hacking Laws.
Like any other law, the effectiveness must be determined by its deterrence. While there will always be those that want to see if they can do it, and get away with it (any crime), there are always the many more who may not do something if they are aware of its unlawfulness - and possible imprisonment. 

In the early 1990's, when hacker efforts stopped AT&T communications altogether, the U.S. Government launched its program to go after the hackers. This was further stepped up when government reports (by the GAO) indicate that there have been more than 250,000 attempts to hack into the Defense Department computers. First there were the laws - now came the bite behind it. One of the effects of computer hacking brought about focused efforts to catch them and punish them by law. 

Then, more recently, the U.S. Justice Department reveals that the National Infrastructure Protection Center has been created in order to protect our major communications, transportation and technology from the attack of hackers. Controlling teens and hackers has become the focus of many governmental groups to stop this maliciousness against individuals, organizations, and nations.

One of the most famous for his computer crimes hacking was Kevin Mitnick, who was tracked by computer, and caught in 1995. He served a prison sentence of about five years. Others have likewise been caught. Another case is that of Vasily Gorshkov from Russia, who was 26 years old when convicted in 2001. He was found guilty of conspiracy and computer crime.

Other individuals have also been found guilty and sentenced -and many others remain on trial. If you are one who pays much attention to the news, then you know that every now and then, you will hear of another hacker that has been caught, or a group of hackers that have been arrested because of their criminal activities. The interesting thing is that it is often others who had learned hacking techniques, and are now using them to catch other criminal hackers. 

Another criminal hacker, who called himself Tasmania, made big news when he fled Spain on various charges of stealing into bank accounts online, and banks, and went to Argentina. There he went into operation again. He was quickly tracked to Argentina, and the governments of Spain and Argentina went after him with surveillance, first. Before long, he was arrested, along with 15 other men, and was then extradited back to Spain (in 2006) where he could face up to 40 years in prison.

The simple truth is, these criminal hackers/cyber attackers get smarter everyday and they do everything possible to cover their tracks, making it difficult to find or locate them. We can’t help but wonder if this computer crime laws have any impact on the rate of computer crimes being committed day after day. We wonder if the existing laws in place are adequate tocombat cyber crime and consequently if amendments need to be put in place.

Today, criminal organizations are very active in the development and diffusion of malware that can be used to execute complex fraud with minimal risks to the perpetrators. Criminal gangs, traditionally active in areas such as human or drug trafficking, have discovered that cyber-crime is a lucrative business with much lower risks of being legally pursued or put in prison. Unethical programmers are profitably servicing that growing market. Because today’s ICT ecosystem was not built for security, it is easy for attackers to take over third party computers, and extremely difficult to track attacks back to their source. Attacks can be mounted from any country and hop through an arbitrary number of compromised computers in different countries before the attack reaches its target a few milliseconds later. This complicates attribution and international prosecution.

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