computer ethics and crime

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Introduction Legality, piracy, ethics, effects, moral dilemmas, motives, age, involvement, types - encryption are all main issues in Computer Crimes in todays world. How do we determine someone fate? Computer crime has become such a hot topic in the media since the middle of the 1980's. By now most of us would have probably recognize the names of some of the prominent "hackers" such as Kevin Mitnick or Robert Morris, which I will touch upon their crimes. These hackers or more appropriately "crackers" have been both vilified and herofied by the media and the computer field. Some of these criminals have been made out to be modern day Robin Hoods, or cyberpunks or whatever. I however disagree with them, and feel as a member of the computer community their actions are irresponsible. Kevin Mitnick is a well knowncomputer criminal who was apprehended with the aided of "Cybersleuth" Tsutumo Shimomura, whose computer was one of the many that Mitnick invaded. He had always been in trouble with the law for computer related crimes. He was first convicted and was declared to be addicted to computers. Part of the stipulations of his parole was that he not have access to computers. It was his return to computer use that brought the law against him, but he was not captured again until after invading Shimomura's computer. Mitnick had apparently invaded computers across the nation, stealing millions of dollars worth of corporate trade secrets, in addition to over 20,000 credit card numbers. Robert Morris was the author of the infamous Internet "worm" that brought the Internet to a standstill back in 1988. Morris a highly knowledgeable first year graduate student at Cornell University authored this worm program which exploited many security flaws in the UNIX operating system to spread throughout the Internet. Reactions to his worm are greatly varied. Some claim that this act was unlawful, irresponsible, and negligent. However, other have heralded his release of the program as a way to bring national attention to the security flaws inherent in the UNIX operating system. Legality The United States government has proposed that a compromise that would allow people to use encrypted devices, but still allows the government to break the codes if necessary. Essentially, an encryption chip, the clipper chip, would be placed into devices that need secure data transmission. The keys to decoding the encrypted message would be kept in escrow by two separate government agencies. Each agency would contain half of the key to prevent abuse. Law enforcement agencies would be able to obtain the keys by obtaining a warrant. The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to the Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected to review every title? Is the Internet like a phone company who must ignore what it carries because of privacy? Is it like a broadcasting medium, where the government monitors what it broadcasts? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or none of these things depending on how it's used. The Internet cannot be viewed as one type of transfer medium user current broadcasting definition. Jim Exon, a democratic senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill regulating the Internet. If the bill passes, certain commercial servers that post pictures of unclad beings, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of course be shut down immediately or risk prosecution. The same goes for any amateur web site that features nudity, sex talk, or rough language. Posting any dirty words in a Usenet discussion group, which occurs routinely, could make one liable for a $50,000 dollar fine and six months in jail. Even worse, if a magazine that commonly runs some of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for instance, decided to post its comments on-line, its leaders would be responsible for a $100,000 fine and two years in jail. Why does it suddenly become illegal to post something that has been legal for years in print? Exon's bill apparently would also "criminalize private mail," ... "I can call my brother on the phone and say anything -- but if I say it on the Internet, its illegal". Congress, in their pursuit of regulations, seems to have overlooked the fact that the majority of adult material comes from overseas. Although many U.S. government sources helped fund Arpanet, the predecessor to the Internet, they no longer control it. Many of the new Internet technologies, including the World Wide Web, have come from overseas. There is no clear boundary between information held in the U.S. and information stored in other countries. Data held in foreign computers is just as accessible as data in America, all it take is the click of a mouse to access. Even if our government tried to regulate the Internet, we have no control over what is posted in other countries, and we have no practical way to stop it. Piracy Software piracy is a very large problem in the software industry. Millions of dollars are lost in sales yearly by software corporation because of it. In addition to the loss of sales, software piracy also aids in the spread of computer viruses. There have been a number of occurrences of viruses that were designed to show how rampant piracy actually is. Here is two examples of software piracy; Aldus Peace Virus and the Pakistani Brain. The Aldus Peace Virus was a harmless virus that was inserted into a popular computer game that displayed a message of peace to Macintosh users on March 2, 1988. Richard Brandow acknowledged that he had written the message and that his intention was to display how widespread software piracy had become. The Pakistani Brain Virus was designed by two brothers, Amjad Farooq Alvi and Basit Farooq, who ran a software company to protect their software from piracy. They entered it into programs so that they would know who pirated their software when they called for the vaccination. They also inserted this virus into American copyrighted software that was being purchased in Pakistan because they believed that by purchasing American software that wasn't protected by copyright laws in Pakistan that people were pirating that piece of software and should be punished. Ethics This is a touchy subject, there are many various meanings; Unethical means not conforming to an appropriate personal standard of conduct, Not ethical means not violating an appropriate personal standard of conduct, No ethics means no appropriate personal standard of conduct was involved or the action was clearly illegal. Advancements in computer and data communications technology have resulted in the need to re-evaluate the applications of ethical principals and establish new agreements on ethical practices. The application of ethics information science, technology, and business is more difficult than in other disciplines for several reasons. Computer and data communications alter relationships among people. Data communications take place without personal contact, without the visual and aural senses to help convey meaning. Moreover, the paperless society, in which information is transmitted at electric speeds, functions side by side with the paper-based society, where information is shared at a snail's pace. Conveying one's intentions in a letter, which can take days to reach the recipient, is very different from instantaneous electric transmission because of how quickly the recipient may act on them. Communication occurs so quickly that one may not have time to consider the implications of the information before it has been sent and received. Information in electric, magnetic, and optical form is far more fragile than information on paper. Computers and data communications systems provide for high- speed, low-cost processing, communication, copying and printing of intangible intellectual property. This capability introduces new factors in decisions about property rights, residual rights, plagiarism, piracy and violation of privacy. Negative events happen so easily, sometimes without the initiators even considering the consequences, that ethical issues are intensified. Freedom of expression is greatly levered and magnified to the extent that far more good may be done with creation, use and dissemination of information. Yet it follows that the consequences of unethical acts are equally magnified. Effects Believe it or not computer crimes, I believe do have some positive effects. That the U.S. violent crime rate drops 10 percent from last year. The survey, issued by the department's Bureau of Justice statistics, found an estimated 2.7 million violent crimes last year, down from 3.0 million in 1995. according to the survey, property crimes, such as household burglaries and motor vehicle thefts, recorded an 8 percent decline last year. The victimization rates in 1996 are the lowest recorded by the survey since its inception in 1973, Jan Chaiken, the director of the statistics - gathered agency, said. People tend to be finding different ways to commit crimes, through computers, in their offices at work to the computers at their homes. I think it is the lesser of the two evils, I would personally rather have someone break into my bank account than my home. That way their is no physical endangerment to my family members and myself. I approach the situation this way, damage through a computer would not hurt us physically 90 percent of the time, and physical damage can never be fixed 100 percent and money can always be replaced, not a human life. Morals The general public all have common truths that apply to everyone's behavior. We all know that the ends do not justify the means, and that two wrongs don't make it right and the notion "everyone else is doing it". Most people have tried to justify an action not the answer nor an excuse for harmful actions caused. Motivations Much of the unauthorized entry into computer systems is done by young computer enthusiast who are seeking to display and test their computer skills. Some claim to try to penetrate systems so that they can learn how to better protect their own systems. These types of invasions have led many skilled hackers to find their way into employment as security consultants. There have been some cases in which people have written viruses or broke into and damaged computer systems as a means of punishing individuals for committing wrongs. Some invasions occur just because the intruder wants to look around the system and see what is there, sometimes leaving a calling card message behind to let the owner know that they penetrated into their system. Philosophy is where the hacker ethic comes into the discussion. Many hackers and computer users believe that all information should be free and available to the public. So they break into protected systems to release hoarded information. The Idle system argument claims that most computers sit idling by wasting cycles. Therefore it is acceptable for hackers to break in and use these wasted cycles because it benefits the overall society by providing more people with access to computing power. The student hacker argument addresses the issues around the learning process of breaking into systems. People claim that by breaking into systems, one can learn a great deal about computers and therefore these types of educational break-ins are not unethical. There is also a threat that people will break into computer systems to cause sabotage or aid in terrorism. There has been little evidence of such activities released to the public, but it is known that both the CIA and NSA are experimenting with computer viruses as strategic weapons. I find this to be slightly ironic because the United States is one of the only nations that could actually be crippled by such a virus. Age As we mature, however, ethics take on a new meaning and importance, especially as we begin a professional career. Computer education now begins in grade school, it is no longer a restricted technical specialty, learned only as a part of on-the-job training or in an engineering or mathematics graduate program. Computers have become as commonplace as telephones. The related ethical issues have thus become more democratically defined. More people have more to say about computer ethics simply because so many more people are computer-literate. On the other hand, the diffuses of the impacts and the wide distribution of the technology mean that recognizing impacts, let alone solving an ethical dilemma, is much more difficult. Involvement This type of computer crime and abuse is one which attaches a great deal of attention from the media. It is in this area that many " hackers" have achieved Robin Hood status. This area encompasses a broad range of criminal activity, the law concerning which is still being shaped. Old law doesn't apply well here because of the problems surrounding electric data as property. Many states have begun to try to expand property definitions to include electric data, use of computers to commit, aid or abet the commission of crime, crimes against intellectual property, knowing unauthorized use of computers, unauthorized copying of

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