A computer crime is any criminal activity that involves the use of a computer or system to carry an illegal activity for the purpose of personal gain. There exist four primary categories of cyber crime in which the computer is the main target. The crimes include crime committed using a computer as a tool, crime using the computer as a target, crimes arising from incidental use of a computer, and crimes associated with computer prevalence. It is often difficult to differentiate the categories of these crimes because a cyber criminal will have broken almost all of the categories when carrying out cyber crime.
Crime related to the computer as a target follows two stages. The initial stage is that the criminal must gain access to computer hardware, a process called intrusion. The second step is that the criminal denies the user of the computer system or network data or service. The criminal denies the user data or service. Making a copy of data counts as denial of data since the owner of the data is denied privacy. Infection of the intruded computer with viruses can cause a computer to be remotely controlled. An example is the Botnet computers in U.S. Botnet were used to attack servers in the University of Pennsylvania (Donner & Banfield, 2014).
A computer can also be used as an instrument of crime. Alteration of computer information or data constitutes the crime. The use of the computer as a target of crime is more intense and includes threats, harassment, and blackmail through the computer network. The use of a computer as an incidental tool to crime means that the criminal uses a computer to propel illegal activities. An example is child pornography, money laundry, and prostitution through the Internet. Crime associated with computer prevalence accounts for identity theft, violation of intellectual property rights, and physical component theft. Violation of intellectual property rights involves piracy of data without the consent of the owner. Lime wire and Napster are traditional programs that aid cyber criminals in perpetrating their illegal activities. The technological advancement has always been ahead of the law, which remains true with identity theft. Criminals, on the other hand, are always quick to stay up with the changing technology.
Digital crime or digital terrorism activities
Digital crime and digital terrorism are terms used interchangeably to mean cyber terrorism, cyber extortion, and cyber warfare. A cyber terrorist is a person who coerces or intimidates an organization or government to advance his social activities or political objectives by launching an attack on computer-based systems like networks, computer, or the information stored in the computer. Digital crime is the act of committing terrorism by the use of computer resources or cyberspace. Cyber terrorism extends further to mean the use of network or Internet to spread propaganda through the Internet like there will be a bomb attack in the afternoon. Hacking activities are intending to evoke fear on others also constitutes to digital crime.
Cyber extortion is when an e-mail server, computer system, or a website is subjected to frequent denial of service by hackers who demand money by promising to end the attacks. The type of cyber crime is high and frequent in attacking corporate networks and websites in U.S. More than 25 cases are reported to the FBI each month. The criminals use a distributed denial-of-service attack in perpetuating their activities (Bartolacci & Podhradsky, 2014).
Cyber warfare is a type of digital crime involving hacking of a nations or organizations information system infrastructure. For instance, Russia was once reported to hack Estonia’s cyber infrastructure and also Georgia. The result is a well coordinated kinetic and non-kinetic attack against a country.
The common type of cyber terrorism is the use of the internet to spread propaganda through the internet to evoke fear in people. The type of crime is prevalent on the social sites like Facebook. People post threatening and criminal messages on the social networks without the prior knowledge of the legal consequences that may follow (Achille & Roger, 2014).
Roles of the U.S. government and court systems in combating cyber crime
The federal government has developed statutes that are at the forefront in combating computer-related fraud. The laws were passed in 1984 but have since then been revised due to the dynamic nature of the cyber criminals. The laws passed are known as Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984. The statute has since then been amended on several occasions like in 1986.
The law prohibits seven types of computer-related activities. The activities can be primarily described as: intentionally using a government computer to browse or affecting the states computer; electronic espionage; unauthorized access of financial information from a U.S. Department or information from a protected computer in a foreign country; transmission of programs that can cause damage to a computer or access information to a protected computer; using a computer to commit theft or to scheme for fraud; extorting threats to a protected computer system; and trafficking in interstate passwords. The laws provide additional breach to misdemeanor and felony with severe penalties depending on the type of crime. 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (g) entails a civil remedy for the damaged through the violations of the statute. Additional Electronic Communication Privacy Act was enacted to criminalize activities like eavesdropping. The law was adopted in 1986 by the Congress so as to address issues involving electronic communications and traditional wire. The EPCA laws currently cover all forms of digital communications (Jain & Kalbande, 2015).
Provision of rights of privacy to internet communications, the Act gives the federal prosecutors powers for curbing criminal activities through the Internet. The ECPA allows the prosecutors to proceed with charges on the individual who compromises a victim’s privacy by improperly accessing a computer system. The service providers are precluded from reading any information transmitted over the Internet. The service providers are the only people excepted from the statute. Economic Espionage Act (EEA) is another federal law passed in 1996 that permits prosecution of crime related to the computer. The Statute deals with the protection of trade secrets. Child and Pornography Prevention Act fights against any pornographic materials from reaching the minors (Bartolacci & Podhradsky, 2014).
A suggestion on how the law enforcers can counter cyber crime is through advising IT security developers like the SaaS to come up with better systems like the Intrusion Prevention Systems and application of firewalls, data security, and physical security to the computers. The IPS should be able to detect any crime and interrupt the server thereby preventing further action by the hacker (Achille & Roger, 2014).
- Achille, M. M., & Roger, A. E. (2014). Obtaining Digital Evidence from Intrusion Detection Attacks: A Discussion and Exploration of a New Category of Cyber Crime. Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law, 9(1), 19-36.
- Bartolacci, M. R., LeBlanc, L. J., & Podhradsky, A. (2014). Personal Denial Of Service (PDOS) control and cybercrime: Exploring the utility of the general theory of crime beyond digital piracy. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 165-172.
- Donner, C. M., Marcum, C. D., Jennings, W. G., Higgins, G. E., & Banfield, J. (2014). Low self-Systems. International Journal of Computer Applications, 95(12), 34-41.
- Jain, N., & Kalbande, D. R. (2015, January). Digital forensic framework using feedback and case history keeper. In Communication, Information & Computing Technology (ICCICT), 2015 International Conference on (pp. 1-6). IEEE.