Nature of Computer Crime



  • Abstract
  • Definition
    Nature of Crimes
    Fighting Crime
  • Policy
  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Measuring
    Crimes of the Future
  • Information Theft
  • Cyber-Terrorism
    Pop Culture




  • This section gives some background information on computer crime, such as what types of computer crime seem to occur most often, and how it has been prevented so far. In truth, computer crime is varied, perhaps even more than our original definition suggests. Correspondingly, attempts to curb it have varied as well.

    It seems fairly clear, based on anecdotal evidence, that fraud, child pornography, unauthorized access, and related crimes make up the majority of computer crime. We already saw that the FBI National Computer Crime Squad concerns itself primarily with unauthorized access. In addition, the most common reports or complaints to InterGOV of computer crime were:

    1Child pornography35%
    2Fraud (scams)33%
    3e-mail abuse12%
    4Missing Children9%
    5 - 10 Stalking,
    Copyright Violations,
    Children (Abused),
    (remaining 11%)
    ["Latest Web" 3]

    Meanwhile, the most common reports to Internet Fraud Watch between January and June 1998 were:

    1. "Web Auctions - items bid for but never delivered by the sellers, value of items inflated, shills suspected of driving up bids;
    2. General Merchandise - sales of everything from T-shirts to toys, calendars and collectibles, goods never delivered or not as advertised;
    3. Internet Services - charges for services that were supposedly free, payment for online and Internet services that were never provided or falsely represented;
    4. Hardware/Software - sales of computer products that were never delivered or misrepresented;
    5. Pyramids/MLM's - schemes in which any profits were made from recruiting others, not from sales of goods or services to end-users;
    6. Business Opportunities/Franchises - empty promises of big profits with little or no work by investing in pre-packaged businesses or franchise opportunities;
    7. Work-At-Home Plans - materials and equipment sold with false promise of payment for piece work performed at home;
    8. Advance Fee Loans - promises of loans contingent on the consumer paying a large fee in advance. Once the fee is paid, the loans are never disbursed;
    9. Credit Repair - fraudulent promises to remove accurate negative information from a consumers credit report;
    10. Credit Card Issuing - false promises of credit cards to people with bad credit histories on payment of up-front fees." [McKee 2-3]

    To many, it is surprising that breaking into computer system composes substantially less than ten percent of all computer crimes reported. For most of the commonly reported crimes (child pornography, e-mail abuse, etc.), it is clear how they are carried out. But, systems are "cracked" (broken into) using many different techniques. Some of these offensive techniques include: packet sniffers, password crackers, worms, Trojan horses, spoofing mechanisms, ping, and diagnostic tools like traceroute, to name a few.