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Pc Perps Essay, Research Paper

PC Perps

by David Stone

PC Perps

Near the end of the Vietnam War, two college students break into a bank computer using the college+s computer and transfer $25,000 from the Grand Old Party National Committee+s account into the Black Panthers+. One of the students is caught, arrested and prosecuted the other gets away (Sneakers).

In 1983, a high school student uses his home computer to try and steal some gaming software from a California vendor+s mainframe and ends up in the Pentagon+s missile control system supercomputer (WarGames).

One eleven-year-old boy creates a computer virus on his homemade computer and crashes 1507 systems in 1988. The resulting damages to systems cause the stock market to drop seven points. He is later caught and given probation until his eighteenth birthday during which time he is not allowed to own or operate a computer or touch tone telephone. His parents are fined $45,000 (Hackers).

Using a cellular telephone, a laptop computer and access to his company+s mainframe, a man while sitting in his car cracks into a police department+s mainframe and changes a woman+s police record to give her a false arrest report (The Net).

What do all of these incidents have in common? First, all of them were crimes committed using desktop or laptop computers referred to as personal computers (PC+s). Second, none of them are true. All of these happenings took place in one movie or the other, but are being used to illustrate one of the many points in this paper: Truth is stranger than fiction . This research is going to describe four crimes possible using a PC. It will also deal with people who are committing these technocrimes and how they can be stopped. The research will explore which machines corner the market in computer crime by comparing IBM+s, compatible and clones with Apple Macintosh (Mac). Finally, what does the future of computer crime hold for the PC?

To limit the depth of this research, minicomputers, those computers powerful enough to be used by groups of people or business departments, and mainframes, those systems that are designed to be used by entire organizations, will be excluded. Also, supercomputers that are created for complex scientific research will be left out of this paper. Even though computer crimes can be committed using minicomputers, mainframes and even, while rarely, supercomputers, to limit the scope of this research, it will deal with only PC s. Further, 70 to 80 percent of all computer crime takes place through internal abuse by company or government employees (Wold 3). This study will deal with external attacks, limiting our scope even further.

Accessing. . .

To understand computer crimes, they first must be defined. The first four fictional accounts illustrate the main categories of computer crime:

1) The introduction of fraudulent records or data in a computer system.

2) Unauthorized use of computer-related facilities.

3) The alteration or destruction of information or files.

4) The stealing, whether by electronic means or otherwise, of money, financial instruments, property, services or valuable data (Parker 3).

Even with these classes, identifying the violation is not always easy. Some crimes encompass one, two or all the categories when others barely skim the surface of only one. These questions are better left to the legislatures to define and the courts to interpret. For this paper+s sake, it will show only the incidents that clearly fall within the realm of these four classes.

Robbing your motherboard blind

Hacking by definition is the determination to make access to computers and information as free and open as possible (Sterling 53) . This in and of itself is not illegal, unless it is done without authorization (consent) and/or in a malicious or destructive manner.

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most accomplished and most wanted hackers ever. When caught in February of 1995, after breaking into now-famous computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura, Mitnick had as much as $1 million worth of stolen data and software that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) confiscated from his computer+s disks and hard drive. This was Mitnicks second arrest after being imprisoned in 1989, spending a year in jail, and released on the condition that he could not touch a computer or a modem. By 1992, he was on the run from the FBI because of his eavesdropping on Pacific Bell security voice mails (Quittner, Kevin Mitnick+s. . . ). After being caught again, Mitnick+s defense against his 25 count indictment was that he never did it for profit. Some of his victims, that included University of Southern California, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Motorola, saw it differently after spending millions to repair and recover software and systems he accessed (Stone).

The Mitnick case shows just how easily someone with a computer and knowledge of them can steal. Yet, it does not show how easy it is to steal actual money. Over 600 million charge cards are carried by Americans and over $400 billion a day move through computerized banking (Francis 32). One need only have the right access to accounts and monies can be moved using a PC. Banks around the country are now offering banking through personal computers, giving free software for anyone that wants to visit their financial institution without leaving the comfort of their home, allowing even greater access to bank mainframes. This is also compiled with many transactions over the electronic medium using credit card numbers with hackers listening in . Thousands of people buy everything from cheese to fun toys over the Internet (Net) leaving their numbers open, to be scanned by an outside computer.

C>, C> who+s there?

Everyone dreams of getting into a school computer and changing a bad grade or hacking a court+s system and 86ing a traffic ticket. Simply accessing a system without authorization is illegal. Data alteration by itself is a no no too. The combination of these two compounds the offense further.

On March 29, 1996, charges were announced against Julio Ardita, a Buenos Aires University student that had gained access to United States government computers using stolen Harvard University passwords and his home computer. He made his way into National Aeronautics and Space Administration+s Jet Propulsion Lab, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and tried to invade U.S. Army Lab+s system (Yoshitake).

Mark Abene, better known to Internet surfers as Phiber Optik, was jailed after an American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) investigation led authorities to the digital Robin Hood . Allegedly a member of the computer gang Masters of Destruction (MOD), he and the group tapped into TRW, a credit reporting company, Bank of America, the National Security Agency and Chiquita Banana, along with AT&T+s computer systems. Abene used AT&T+s system to change rival+s telephones to respond like a pay phone and ask for 25 cents when a call was dialed. Secret Service recorded two members of the MOD setting up a bogus credit bureau that could alter people+s credit histories. They bragged, We can destroy people+s lives or make them look like saints (Quittner, Hacker. . . ) .

Things that go byte in the night.

Can a computer get sick? A computer cannot, but everything that runs it can. Yet, what gets the systems ill do not come from nature. They are homemade bugs.

When first looking at computer viruses, one must know of Trojan Horses. A Trojan Horse is a block of undesired code intentionally hidden within a desirable block of code (Hoffman, Lance J. 5) . A virus is a type of Trojan Horse that attaches to a program and once initiated replicates itself much like a natural virus. Not all computer viruses are harmful, but most today are created for a malicious intent. Destructive computer viruses duplicate themselves to the point that they overwhelm the data in the system and crash everything. Anyone with moderate computer programming skill can create one. Virus history traces back to the 1960+s, but it was not until the early 1980+s that they became widely publicized. In fact, the magazine, Scientific America, had pages describing in detail how to create a virus (Combating Computer Crime 89). Only one new virus was reported in 1986, but that has escalated to 4,500 reported in 1995 and an estimated 9,000 expected by the end of 1996 (Swartz). The most famous of all Trojan Horses is the Michelangelo that infected thousands of systems in 1990 doing minimal damage, yet causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean up. Most viruses just clutter up data and leave humorous messages like, Frodo lives or someother electronic graffiti. Of course, they are not funny to the people whose systems get them.

Another type of possibly destructive program is called a worm. Where a virus is pretty much just code that replicates itself and takes up room on drives and in the random access memory (RAM); a worm is more like a program that can replicate itself using other programs to do or go where it likes. On November 2, 1988, one such program invaded Internet systems throughout the world. Hundreds of systems were affected and its author, Robert Tappan Morris, a Cornell University graduate student, was later arrested for releasing the worm. Though his Trojan Horse was quite specific in which systems it attacked, Morris was convicted because of the harm caused by the clean up and repair (Hoffman, Lance J. 203-224).

The biggest problem with worms and viruses is that they are not regulated or illegal to create. The First Amendment allows for program writers to create whatever they like, but laws prohibit the development of programs with a destructive intent (Swartz). Logic-bombs, like the one left by a disgruntled employee in the Burleson, Texas company+s computer that deleted commissions for more than 400 employees (Rasch 64), and the other Trojan Horses have helped to create a new niche in the software industry to combat these rogue programs. Consistently in the top 10-selling software programs, anti-virus tools have swept the world.

20 floppy disks tall and weighing in at about 7 laser printers.

How old are pc perpetrators? Are they male or female? What do they do besides commit computer crimes and sit in front of the monitor all night? Actually, for now, it depends on the crime. Computer viruses that do damage are created by 14- to 18-year-old students that are mostly male (Swartz). Whereas hackers can range from teenagers to thirty something working in the industry and consisting of a lot of males with some females. The cross over in age, sex and abilities shows a point. A hacker does not necessarily create rogue programs and a Trojan Horse maker does not have to break into computers. The two can be independent or combined.

The computer criminal is changing. With greater access for everyone, anyone with rudimentary computer skills can trip into or break into a site they should not . Furthermore, hacking philosophy is any and all information made available for everyone. This implies, if their ideas match their skills, anyone with a computer and a modem could have a view into restricted data. So in the end, the horizon shows a changing of the helm for this technological violator.

Stop or I+ll zap you with my mouse!

Protecting systems from these criminals can be done in many ways. Tools of the trade are top priority. As the technologies of the criminal increases, so does the host system+s. Anti-virus tools, already touched on, are one of the programs that find viruses, Trojan Horses and the such. If the software knows the infection, it repairs the system and if not, it tries to identify the problem. Unfortunately, it is estimated that three to six new viruses are created daily. How can programmers possibly keep up?

Other weapons are things such as firewalls, passwords and encryption systems that restrict access by acting as buffers between the right and wrong users. Systems that the U.S. Department of Justice enacted after its network homepage was invaded and painted on with antigovernment graffiti, a swastika and a nude photo in August,1996 (Anthes).

More weapons include law enforcement and government regulation and policing of cyberspace. The day is coming very fast when every cop will be issued a badge, a gun and a laptop, says Federal Law Enforcement Training Center director Charles Rinkevich. The fact is that every white-collar crime uses or is linked with a computer or telecommunications system of some kind (Sussman). Recently, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asked companies and citizens for encryption keys and other computer weapons to be used on the war against technocrime. These keys would be held by neutral third-parties and be given to law enforcement with proper warrants. The hacker crosses no boarders and no checkpoints. One person alone can steal as much as he [or she] wants, said Reno (Zamora).

Perhaps, the most useful weapons are the laws. The first federal computer crime law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, prohibited the use of computers to obtain certain information and interfere with a government owned computer (Wold 19). Later this was supplemented and rewritten by the act by the same name of 1986. This act was used in the prosecution of Tappan Morris after his worm had caused significant damage and to indict members of the MOD gang (Rasch 60). Other laws such as the Computer Security Act of 1982 and Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 along with various codes dealing with wire fraud, copyright, credit card fraud and national security help to cover any ground not envisioned in the 1986 act. These laws have become some of the strongest weapons against and in the prevention of PC crimes.

And now for this brief commercial announcement.

As a brief sidebar, a comparison in criminal friendly hardware is in order. What gets used the most: IBM+s or Mac+s? Mac barely claims 20 percent of the personal computer market. Despite this, Mac+s are used to create nearly 50 percent of the Web sites on the Internet. Unfortunately, base programming on these machines is somewhat cumbersome, discouraging for novices. Also, there just are not enough of them out there. By far, IBM+s have the market cornered on PC crimes. Their ease of programming and their fast processing speed coupled with so many people owning or having access to them makes them one+s weapon of choice. Frequent programming on IBM+s have caused greater number of viruses, worms and such to be created for them, yet very few are created for Mac+s (Combating Computer Crime 90-94).

Is the future worth the RISC?

This research cannot end without a look forward. In 1993, Americans bought 5.85 million PC+s and by the year 2000, it is estimated that 84 percent of our homes will have some kind of computer (Gordon 33). So many are going to have computers and so many are going to have knowledge making little information secure.

Further, what started as a couple of government computer networks looking to share information and data with colleges and other institutions, grew into the Internet. The Net is arguably the greatest communication invention since the telephone. It connects millions to information and communications never thought possible. For almost nothing, a boy in Texas can send an e-mail to a girl in Hong Kong. Hundreds of new web sites are created each day giving way to greater data and even more access. With every benefit, there comes a cost. In 1992, a study was done on one Internet site. It found that hackers tried to break in, at the least, once a day (U.S. Dept of Commerce 25). In 1995, the Pentagon reported tens of thousands of hits on their system that were totally unauthorized. The problem is that security sometimes cannot outweigh the ease of access that may be lost.

Logging off. . .

Proving this paper+s first point about truth and fiction: Just days after 1996+s first Presidential debate, hackers broke into the Dole-Kemp Web site given by Bob Dole after the debate. When surfers went to access the page, they were greeted by an Oopps message and were only able to move forward, which then took them to the Clinton-Gore site (Jennings, . . .web site ). Originally thought to be a hacker that switched things around in the Net; it later turned out that Dole gave out the wrong address and an observant Democratic user turned it to their advantage (Jennings, . . mistake ). The facts are that very little can be done to stop PC users from committing these crimes. Increased technology, with notebook-sized computers of today being as powerful as the room-sized computers of twelve years ago, enforcement and security are barely able to keep up.

Months ago, 10,000 Northwest Airlines-affiliated Visa credit cards had to be canceled after hackers posted the numbers of the accounts on Internet bulletin boards (Hoffman, Gary), further illustrating the dangers of unlimited information availability.

Fortunately, very little damage is actually done to systems by outside attackers. Most damage is done by internal offenders. One estimate calculated about 85 percent from within and 15 percent external. But with the Internet and more people everyday having greater access to computers, surfing has become the entertainment for the future. Even further, many are working from home to office through networking. Outside computer crime, especially those using personal computers, has nowhere to go but up. In the end, only the smart and knowledgeable will survive.

Author+s Note: Every book reference for this paper was found through the World Wide Web and every magazine and newspaper article was copied off Internet sites. The problem was not finding the information, but sorting out all available data.

Hacking the Planet!!!. . . legally



Anthes, Gary H. Attack highlights Web security risks . ComputerWorld. August 26, 1996:20

Combating computer crime: prevention, detection, investigation. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1992.

Francis, Dorothy B. Computer Crime. New York: Lodestar Books. 1987.

Gest, Ted. Federal Officials use first-ever computer wire tap+ on hacker . U.S. News Online. July 1996.

Gordon, Steven R. and Judith R. Gordon. Information Systems: a Management Approach. Fort Worth: The Dryden Press.1995.

Hackers. Dir. Iain Softly. With Johnny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie and Fisher Stevens. United Artists Pictures, 1995.

Hoffman, Gary. Hackers force bank to cancel credit cards . The Detroit News. April 13, 1996: News.

Hoffman, Lance J. Rogue Programs: Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1990.

Jennings, Peter. Dole-Kemp web site . World News Tonight. ABC. September 30, 1996.

Jennings, Peter. Dole+s mistake . World News Tonight. ABC. October 1, 1996.

Littman, Jonathan. The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1996

The Net. Dir. Irwin Winkler. With Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northham and Dennis Miller. Columbia Pictures, 1995.

Nugent, Hugh. U.S. Dept of Justice. State computer crime statutes. Washington D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. 1991.

Parker, Donn B. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Computer crime: criminal justice resource manual. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Justice, National Institute of Justice. 1989.

Quittner, Joshua. Kevin Mitnick+s Digital Obsession . Time. February 27, 1995: vol.145, no. 9 TECHNOLOGY.

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Rasch, Mark D. Legal lessons in the computer age . Security Management. April, 1996: vol. 40 no. 4 59-67.

Sneakers. Dir. Phil Alden Robinson. With Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Mary McDonnell, Ben Kingsley and Dan Aykroyd. Universal Pictures, 1992.

Sterling, Bruce. The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier. New York; Bantham Books. 1992.

Stone, Keith. Mitnick Faces 25 U.S. Hacking Courts . Los Angeles Daily News. September 27, 1996.

Sussman, Vic. Policing cyberspace . U.S. News Online. January 23, 1995: TECHNOLOGY.

Swartz, Jon. Symantec+s High-Tech Hot Zone: Where computer viruses go to die . SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. October 8, 1996: C1.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce. An Introduction to Computer Security: The NIST Handbook. U.S. Dept. of Commerce NIST special publication. October 1995.

Wack, John P. Gaithersburg, MD. U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Keeping your site comfortable secure: an introduction to Internet firewalls . Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1994.

WarGames. Dir. John Badham. With Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman and Ally Sheedy. United Artists, 1983.

Wold, Geoffrey H. and Robert F. Shriver. Computer Crime Techniques Prevention. Rolling Meadows, Illinois: Bankers Publishing Co. 1989.

Yoshitake, Dawn. Hackers: Pro and Con . Los Angeles Daily News. July 26, 1996.

Zamora, Jim Herron. Rero: Tools needed to catch cyber crooks . SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER. June 15, 1996: A3.

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