Do the Crime, Do the Time?

Computer Crime

Friedman (2007) provides the flat world enabled people across the globe to communicate, create, collaborate, and grow.  At the same time, Friedman (2007) acknowledges the flattening of the world presented challenges.  Taking inspiration from Friedman (2007), cyber-crime is any criminal act dealing with computers and networks (Webopedia website, n.d.).  Moreover, computer crime pervades society.  Thus, the author of this blog could not lend details for all of the computer hazards; thus, he focused on a few crimes such as cyber threats, cyber terrorism, identity theft, fraud, child predators, and child pornography.  Next, the author of this blog supplies background of these threats and concludes by applying computer ethics to computer crimes.  First, he examines cyber threats.

According the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cyber threats will soon rival terrorism as the primary danger facing the United States (Clayton, 2013).  Cyber threats involve computer intrusions or break-ins by hackers to exploit computer networks (Clayton, 2013).  These hackers break into computer systems to steal information or diffuse viruses to infect computers.  Viruses are malicious kinds of software that challenge computer security (The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, 2008)

Cyber terrorism is a large cyber threat for the United States.  Traditionally, terrorists attempted to impose physical harm through bombs and airplanes.  With the proliferation of computers and the internet, cyber terrorists target destroying the infrastructure of the United States by attacking the power supply (Clayton, 2013).  To illustrate, the cyber terrorist’s intent is to cause havoc by bringing down the banking system, the backbone of the United States financial system.  Imagine the widespread chaos if automated teller machines went blank and people could not access money to buy basic essentials of food and water!  Adding fuel to the fire, smartphones would be inoperable making personal and business communication difficult.  Thus, cyber terrorism’s goal is to create panic and thereby a systemic breakdown.

Another cyber threat is identity theft, which is a type of fraud.  The author’s organization of employment is a financial services corporation, which regularly encounters identify theft.  Identify theft is a fraud using the identifying information of another person without the proper authority usually for economic gain (Department of Justice website, n.d.).  In 2003, Federal Trade Commission research indicated that nearly 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft the preceding year (Federal Trade Commission website, 2003).  An example of identity theft is a person steals an investor’s demographic data such as name, social security number, and address, calls into the customer-service phone center or logs onto the website to change the address on an account, and redeems the entire account to the new address.  Another example outside of the author’s business is the misuse of a stolen credit card to purchase merchandise online.

Other types of fraud his company experiences are phishing, pharming, and key-logging.  First, phishing is when a criminal attempts to steal personal information from an investor using an unsolicited, genuine looking email with a link to a fake website (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Second, pharming is when a criminal hacks into a computer to redirect online traffic from a legitimate website to a fake one and captures the information the investor enters (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Finally, key-logging is when a criminal deploys hidden programs in counterfeit emails or websites to record the investor’s keystrokes and steal information (Webopedia website, n.d.).  In essence, the objective of criminal’s fraudulent activities in targeting his organization is to steal investor’s money!  From an overall business perspective, only 22 percent of surveyed cases detected and stopped fraud (Business ID Theft website, n.d.); transaction methods such as credit and debit card fraud, fraudulent wire transfers, fraudulent ACH, and fraudulent bill pay transfers enabled criminals through computers (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Furthermore, fraud experts caution the Holiday Season is the prime time of year for criminals to commit online fraud (Weisbaum, 2013).  To explain, criminals deploy magnitudes of viruses targeting mobile devices by installing spyware to steal online shopper’s names, passwords, and credit card information (Weisbaum, 2013).  Given this hectic time of year, Holiday shoppers are wise to be on alert for suspicious activities when making gift purchases through smartphones or the internet.

Other computer crimes are child predators and child pornography.  Sad to say, child predators lure children into meeting them over the internet.  For example, the predator uses a social media website such was Facebook to lure a potential victim.  To combat these despicable predators, parents access the family watchdog website where sex offenders are registered (Family Watchdog website, n.d.).  However, the best defense is to educate children on detecting and preventing predators.  Another deplorable criminal act is child pornography.  Enough said.  As demonstrated above, computer crime is pervasive and the author next applies computer ethics to it.

Ethical application

An early pioneer for ethics and computers, Wiener (1954) provides the purpose of human life is to flourish as the information-processing organisms that humans are by taking in a wide diversity of information and processing it ways that constitute reasoning, calculating, wondering, deliberating, and deciding.  Today, the internet enabled leaders to have vast amounts of information.  Similar to Wiener (1954), leaders process this boundless information and make decisions.  However, in processing the information, the dark side tempts some leaders.  Moor (1985) explains computers provided humans with new capabilities, which, in turn, gave humans new choices for action.  In the case of computer crimes, people make poor moral decisions while processing the information.  Moreover, the internet provides criminals anonymity (The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, 2008).  Under the mask of the internet, criminals are apt to take more risks compared to if they had to show their face.  At the end of the day, internet crime comes down to the leader’s moral character.  To illustrate, investors trust the author’s organization to safeguard not only their assets but their confidential information.  His CEO often states one violation such as a lost social security number of our shareholder’s trust would hurt the entire organization.  Thus, security of the company’s website and confidentiality of the investor’s private information is critical to his organization.

Greed such as identity theft or fraud and downright evil such as cyber-terrorism, child predators, and child pornography motivate computer criminals.  In turn, the Federal Government has strategies to stop these computer crimes.  For example, the FBI leads the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, a group of 19 intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies to prevent future terrorists attacks (Clayton, 2013).  With rapid change in technologies, computer criminals appear to be one-step ahead of the law.  Vigilant citizens are the best defense to computer crimes.  What do you think?

References

Business ID Theft website. (n.d.). http://www.businessidtheft.org/Education/BusinessIDTheftScams/CyberCrime/tabid/107/Default.aspx

Clayton, M. (2013). FBI as cyber crime sleuth:  Is it any match for computer bad guys? Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2013/1118/FBI-as-cyber-crime-sleuth-Is-it-any-match-for-computer-bad-guys

Department of Justice website. (n.d.). http://www.justice.gov

Family Watchdog website. (n.d.). http://www.familywatchdog.us/

Federal Trade Commission website. (2003). http://www.ftc.gov/os/2003/09/synovatereport.pdf

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Moor, J. (1985). What is computer ethics? Metaphilosophy, 16(4), 266-275.

The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. (2008). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-computer/

Webopedia website. (n.d.). http://www.webopedia.com

Weisbaum, H. (2013). Fraud alert:  How to prevent holiday-related identify theft. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/business/fraud-alert-how-prevent-holiday-related-identity-theft-2D11603379

Wiener, N. (1954). The human use of human beings: cybernetics and society (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Doubleday Anchor.

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13 thoughts on “Do the Crime, Do the Time?

  1. Regarding identity theft, what prevention activities do you recommend for “vigilant citizens?” Are the service providers who have identity theft prevention services worth the money required to purchase the service, or it the work best done by the consumer?

    I suspect that when one notices questionable activity, bystander intervention fears kick in. Who should be contacted? What if the bystander becomes the target in retaliation for reporting a crime? The U.S. Department of Education, blogged about their recommendations to

    “Change the current norms from bystander inaction to engagement

    Establish a distinctive and positive brand for bystander engagement
    Invite a critical mass of community members to attend a research-informed, data driven
    bystander program
    Infuse positive bystander messaging across formal and informal mechanisms for shaping
    community norms (admissions policies, freshman trips, classrooms, residential life,
    student groups, athletic teams, etc.)”
    Even though these recommendations were intended to prevent sexual assault on campus, I suspect they could be used to establish an environment of responsibility in addressing the expectations of employees to report crimes of all types. Do you think this a program that leaders could utilize in the workplace?

    References
    U.S. Department of Education. (2013, November 25). Addressing and Preventing Sexual
    Assault on Campus. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/11/addressing-
    and-preventing-sexual-assault-on-campus/

    • Hi Librarylyon. Thank you for your questions. When I was on spring back in college, I had my wallet stolen in Key West, Fl. I did not know what to do so we contacted the local police. The criminal used our credit cards to purchase merchandise.

      Ever since then I have reviewed my credit card bills on a frequent basis. I never subscribed to the service providers you alluded to above. So, I do not have any experience with them. However, my research showed the Department of Justice did best job summarizing what to do to prevent identify theft and fraud (see SCAM) and what to do if you are victim (contact the Federal Trade Commission, which I wish I knew back on spring break but there was no internet back then!).

      Check out the link under What Should I Do To Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft and What Should I Do If I’ve Become a Victim of Identity Theft. Let me know what you think?

      http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html

      Look forward to your thoughts. Regards,
      Peter

  2. I recently viewed an episode of 60 minutes where they covered one the largest Federal Media Piracy cases to date. It appeared that many of the defenders were willing to take the risk because they thought the money generated from piracy outweighed the punishment for getting caught.

    If the US government classifies cyber crime as a major threat to the country, how is Congress tackling the enactment of stiffer laws and criminal punishment? For example, paying restitution, serving probation or a few years in federal prison may not be appropriate deterrents.

    Do you believe laws or more informed citizens is the answer to decrease cyber crimes?

    UNT_Denise

  3. Just to throw out a different point of view here.

    We all know that as long as humans have had the ability to do so, there will be those that participate in criminal activity. Even the Bible speaks of thieves, liars, murderers, and basically all other forms of despicable acts against others. However, with those that are criminals, there will always be those that will have to track them down and bring them to justice. Without criminals, there would not be a job for a law enforcement official. I know it is a strange point of view, but I feel that there will always be an evil in the world. We also we need people to attack that evil. So even though criminals will find new ways to steal or take advantage of people, it will go on until the end of time. The only thing we can do is to protect ourselves as best we can, and put our trust in individuals that take on the responsibility of bringing criminals to justice. What do you think?

    • Troy, great points. I concur! Congress can make laws and businesses can assist. However, alert citizens to fraud and identify theft are key. For example, the fraud cases our company gets are primarily targeted toward the elderly. Moreover, the victims typically know the person who commits the fraud. To explain, a son, daughter, housekeeper, or mistress obtain access to an older person’s pertinent information to commit fraud by miss representing the person and stealing their money.

      As a leader in my company, we train our teams to be alert for such cues on cases and report them to management. However, the best deterrent in this case is a person who genuinely cares for the elderly person takes care of their financial matters through a power of attorney. What are your thoughts? Regards, Peter

  4. I truly enjoyed reading your post. I think that you clearly identified the difficulties law enforcement agencies and individuals have in keeping pace with cyber criminals. The internet makes many everyday tasks faster and more convenient. For instance, shopping, researching, banking and communicating on the go are just some of the functions that I perform online. I think that part of the reason why it is easy for cyber criminals to access information is due to a lack of awareness because the internet affords us so much convenience. Today, most people have computers and internet access that allow them to remain connected; however, many still fail to secure their computers to help prevent attacks from cyber criminals. Some even allow their operating system, web browsers, or security software to become outdated, thus making it easier for criminals to break into their computer, send spam or observe their online activity.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) states that, “To stay in front of current and emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partners worldwide” (www.fbi.gov). In fact, the FBI provides The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) states that, “To stay in front of current and emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partners worldwide” (www.fbi.gov). Despite their efforts to help prevent cyber crimes, I believe that they will not be able to maximize their efforts without help from the casual internet user. Therefore, I somewhat agree with your statement that vigilant citizens are the best defense against computer crimes. However, I would say that the best method to prevent cyber crimes will require a joint effort from citizens, federal agencies, local governments, and law enforcement to create educational opportunities necessary to stay ahead of the curve on online criminal activity.

    Gbarnes05

    Reference

    Federal Bureau of Investigations (2013). Cyber Crime. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber

    • Hi Gbarnes, Fair enough! I cannot argue with you that a concerted effort working in concert would be best. However, being that we both work in the discipline of business, I would through that in there too! Speaking of business, my company does two one hour training per year on detecting fraud and identity theft. We also have a fraud hotline where employees can report suspicious activities and the fraud team takes over the investigation after the call. Does Verizon do something similar? Regards, Peter

  5. Thank you for your post, it taught me new things to be weary of. I was also left with the question on how to safeguard myself against cyber crimes. You are right that the holidays are here and I will be doing the majority of my shopping online so any information or references you can provide to help against being a target would be helpful.

    Louis

  6. Great post, Peter, and, unfortunately, timely for me.

    I just learned this week that my corporate card had been “compromised.” This is actually the third time that my University credit card has been “compromised.” As usual, I was informed by the security unit from JP Morgan Chase that my card – and 68 others – were being cancelled and that a new credit card would be issued the next day.

    When I asked the JPM representative if the ever catch these individuals who “compromise” our cards and accounts, he said bluntly “hardly ever.” I don’t even know how my card was “compromised.” Also, while I know that the fraudulent charges are not billed to me or the University – who actually pays them ? JPM, I assume ?

    I was happy to read in your post that Congress is looking to strengthen the existing legislation. The reality is that this will never stop if someone keeps paying the fraudulent charges and the violators are rarely caught. Surely there must be some system or technology that can track such individuals. Did you find anything in your research to indicate a possible solution or approach ?

    Thanks,

    Jim

    • Hi Jim, thanks for your thoughts. I didn’t come across anything. I am in Troy’s camp that there will always be criminals who find a way. However, technology can certainly help. I often reflect upon the future where we live in a world where surveillance is omnipresent. A thought that scares me some because what if machines take over? Yet, it would deter crime. What do you think? Peter

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