Information Theft



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




  • There have been a growing number of cases of information theft over the past few years. While more and more electronic security measures have been going up to protect people's possessions and information, these new technologies have bugs and design flaws that are opening up whole new worlds for the technologically advanced criminal.

    Credit Card Number Theft
    People are using credit cards for more and more of their purchases as time goes on. This is opening up a larger and larger arena for credit card fraud. Credit cards are especially easy to use fraudulently, because they require no extra identification number to use. All that a thief needs is pure information-they don't need the card, but just the number on the card. Recently, with people spending more on purchases transacted over the internet, credit card fraud is becoming easier. Now thieves never have to get within 5,000 miles of the people they are stealing from. All they would need is a quick and dirty web site (which could be hosted for free, and anonymously) advertising some fictional product, and including a form for buying online. Instantly the perpetrators would have a list of credit card numbers linked with names and mailing addresses, ready to use for anything they want.
    ATM Spoofing
    These crooks have pulled some impressively intricate heists. One group of criminals set up a complete fake ATM machine inside a mall in Connecticut.. It looked and worked just like a real one, except that after giving it your card and typing in your pin, it would refuse you service saying it was out of order. It then had a record of the card and PIN numbers of all the people who tried to use the machine. The thieves then used legitimate ATM machines all over town to withdraw over $3,000 from these accounts.["The Risks Digest Volume 14: Issue 60" 1]
    PIN Capturing
    Another group of criminals scoured the area across the street from a busy ATM, looking for the perfect spot to hide a video camera aimed at the keys on the ATM machine. They found such a spot and set up their camera. After each successful PIN number identification that they recorded, one of the group members would go check for a discarded receipt at the ATM. If they found one, the group had the card number and the PIN number.
    Database Theft
    The previous criminal activities are all aimed at compiling databases of information obtained fraudulently from people one by one. This takes time, and these people only have limited amounts of time before their operations will be recognized and shut down. This limits the number of people whose information these criminals can obtain. There are, however, large databases of this kind of information that have been built up slowly and legally by mild-mannered, legitimate internet companies. For example, BMG Music Service lets customers give their credit card numbers when they sign up, so they don't need to bother each time they make a purchase. There are thousands of users of this service, many of whom likely use this feature. Combine this with the fact that hundreds of computer systems are hacked into every day, and we have a situation where hackers could steal an industrial-sized database of this kind of information, and run wild.
    Electronic Cash
    We are already well on the way to a cash-free society. People now use ATM cards, credit cards, and check-cards for a large percentage of their purchasing. As we move further from a paper-money society, to a purely electronic economy, new types of crime will emerge. What types exactly will depend on what new forms of security tomorrow's criminals will need to break. Will people be synthesizing voice authorizations? Or running replay attacks on retinal scanners? Or even learning to imitate a victim's typing style. All we can be sure of, is that criminals of tomorrow, like those of last century and those of today, will keep on innovating.