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Internet/High Tech Crime - Criminology Dip 7.

Updated on January 13, 2012

High Tech Crime


***Before you continue to read this Hub may I mention that this is my work, written in my words for my Criminology Diploma. By all means read the Hub and absorb it's content but please don't plagiarize my work and present it as your own work towards your own diploma. This has been added as a request from a tutor/examiner of the Criminology Diploma program.***

Thank you!

7.1 Critically evaluate the use of computers and Internet Technology in support of Criminal activities.

Most of us these days benefit from the use of computers and the Internet, giving us instant access, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to a vast network of information and entertainment. We can communicate instantly with friends, relatives and colleagues and we can conduct business transactions more efficiently and accurately. Unfortunately, along with the benefits of this good side comes the bad side providing criminals with the potential to misuse this technology as a tool in support of criminal activity. Anyone who uses a computer attached to the Internet, whether it is for home use or business use, is at risk of Internet crime! Businesses face the greatest losses, possibly amounting to £billions in lost revenue, along with costs of downtime and repairs to systems.

Internet crime could also be referred to as hi-tech crime, cyber-crime or e-crime, all of which are terms used to describe a range of crimes committed or facilitated over the Internet with the use of computers. Internet crime includes the following categories: -

· Hacking

· Viruses

· Pirating

· Fraud

· Paedophilia

If there is money to be made from hi-tech crime then it would be expected that the serious and organised criminal will be involved, these criminals are becoming more technologically competent but they are also likely to be in a position where they can buy in skills and expertise to assist them as and where needed. Computers and the Internet have given the organised criminal new means of conducting business, providing instant communication and relative anonymity. E-mail, chat rooms and messaging services have created opportunities to co-ordinate criminal activities, locate victims and arrange deals such as the sales of drugs or weapons.

Hacking, or cracking, as it is also known, is the act of gaining access without authorisation to a computer or computer network. Technically a hacker or cracker is someone who is enthusiastic about computers, programming and technology.

Some hackers will act on the challenge that a computer system or network has such a highly protected system that it cannot be hacked, simply to broaden their knowledge and boost their own ego or just to be mischievous, others will hack for a more sinister goal. A usual method of hacking is known as going through the backdoor. Most programs, systems and software will have a backdoor entrance that can be used for access following a breakdown or for general repair; these backdoors will be locked with a code or password.

Once hackers, with criminal intent, have accessed a computer or network, they then have the capability of adding, changing or deleting files stored on that system, they could completely destroy the whole system or they could have access to personal details and photographs etc without the users knowledge. They could receive the users e-mails and send e-mails from the users account, invading ones privacy and creating endless serious problems.

Criminals hacking into business systems could gain access to vast amounts of private data such as social security details, credit card and bank data and health details, all of which could be used to steal ones identity.

Another form of hacking is the Denial of Service attack, where an attacker attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services from their own systems. An attacker may hack into one or more weak networked systems and force these networks to flood attack another network with the intention of causing mass disruption or a total crash. This method can also be used to weaken a well-protected system causing it to be more vulnerable to attack.

Viruses are pieces of computer code that can be loaded onto a computer without the users knowledge and can run without the users permission, they are designed to implant themselves into programs or files with intent on destroying or changing any transmitted data. A virus can easily and quickly reproduce and can erase files and cause systems to run slowly or even lock up by using up all the computers available memory. Viruses are usually transmitted by e-mail or by portable media like CD’s, DVD’s or pen drives. A worm is similar to a virus but it does not attach itself to programs or files, leaving it free to spread through a network on its own. Trojan horses, which again are similar to a virus, are programs that perform malicious actions whilst pretending to be doing something else. Viruses, worms and Trojan horses all fall into the category of malicious software now known as malware.

Some high-tech criminals may resort back to the old extortion racket by hacking into a company’s system or planting a virus then offering to fix the vulnerability of the system for a high fee. This form of extortion relies on the attacked company’s fear of adverse publicity, damage to reputation or loss of customer confidence.

Intellectual Property Crime or Pirating. Modern day technology with computers and the Internet has created many potentially lucrative opportunities to criminals at all levels, relating to piracy. Hardware capable of producing and copying CD’s, DVD’s, games and computer software is readily available at very low cost, mass copies of original discs can be produced easily and quickly and sold on at a great profit to the readily available consumer market. Some discs do incorporate security features that are put there to prevent the media being copied; these features generally don’t take long to overcome by the technically minded criminal. Certain sites on the Internet provide illegal downloads and file sharing of all formats of media; some films are available within days of being released, some music has been available prior to its release, obviously stolen during production.

Fraud is rife on the Internet in many different forms, as previously stated, if you use the Internet, your at risk of Internet fraud. The Internet is a cheap and easy way for fraudsters to con people out of their hard earned money.

One of the most common Internet frauds is one known as “phishing”. Phishing is designed to trick users of certain sites, usually banks or building societies, into disclosing their personal passwords and other confidential information needed to access their accounts online. The commonest method of this fraud is to e-mail the possible customer advising them that it is necessary to confirm or update their personal banking details, a link on the e-mail will direct them to a fake but realistic website where they will be required to input all their personal details and passwords. Once these details are in the criminal’s hands they can then begin transferring funds from the victim’s account leaving the balance at zero. Genuine banks will never ask a customer to disclose all their details, if something looks suspicious it probably is.

Lottery scams are similar to phishing in the sense that contact is initially made by e-mail. Even though you may have never entered a lottery, this e-mail will give you notice that you have won a major prize but will ask for one of three requests to be completed before the prize can be claimed. You may be asked to forward an amount of money to enable the prize to be claimed; you may be asked to call a telephone number, this will involve a long call at a premium rate; you may be asked for personal and banking details. These prizes don’t exist; never reply to such mails because if you do, the sender will know that your address is a genuine one, which may come in useful for other scams.

Another scam that originated in letter and fax format way back in the 1980’s but is now conducted by e-mail is the Nigerian 419 scam so named after the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud, Though these frauds originated in Nigeria they can now come from any foreign land like Botswana or South Africa. A wealthy foreigner, or the lawyer of a deceased millionaire, needs assistance to move this fortune of £millions from his homeland to the UK, if you can assist him you will get a percentage of his fortune. To get this fortune into the UK he needs a genuine bank account to launder it through so he will need all your bank details to achieve this, he may also need an up front payment to get the ball rolling. As in other banking scams, your bank account will shrink, not grow.

A much more common type fraud occurs regularly on the on-line auction trading sites. This involves a seller registering on a particular trading website and building up a good reputation over time. They will then advertise many items for sale that they don’t possess, take in all the payments and then do a vanishing act.

Identity fraud and identity theft are terms referred to crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another persons personal details is a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for financial gain. A victim’s personal details can be obtained by hacking or by some other previously mentioned fraudulent measure. Social security details, bank or credit card details, passports, driving licenses, telephone numbers and addresses and even utility bills falling into the wrong hands can be used to personally profit at the victims expense. Not only could these details be used to drain ones bank account or run up credit card debts, they could be used to commit crimes in the victims name.

Paedophiles. There is a lot of publicity about paedophile activity on the Internet and it is true that the net gives paedophiles access to images of children and access to children themselves. The main problem is chat rooms; paedophiles can pretend to be a child and can make friends even in a supervised chat room; conversation may continue to build up the child’s trust and confidence. This contact could then progress to more personal methods such as texting or telephone calls and could even progress to an actual meeting. This is called grooming and is punishable by law. The first rule in any chat room is never under any circumstances reveal any personal details that would allow someone to contact you, such as full name, address, e-mail address or any telephone number, and never send a photograph. Parents and children need to remain educated relating to the threats and dangers of paedophilia and always be aware that others in chat rooms may not be who they say they are.

New threats against computers, the Internet and the person emerge every day so it is important to have a good security system permanently protecting your PC and network. Keep this security system updated and regularly scan your PC for viruses and spyware to stay one step in front of the criminal. Never give out any personal details unless you are 100% sure of safety.

Any comments welcome!


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