Computer Crime

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Computer Crime

Computer Crime


The term computer crime is often used to refer to crimes against computers or their services, and it includes obtaining illegal access to a system, preventing access by others, theft of services, and causing damage to a computer system or its data (Wall, 2004).

“Hacking” or “cracking” refers to obtaining access to a computer without authorization or payment (i.e., theft of service) and may be carried out to obtain information from a computer system, to alter data contained in the system, or to interfere with the operation of the system. Such attacks are often performed to obtain confidential information such as passwords, financial figures, proprietary records, organizational data, or security information, or to access the system remotely to make unauthorized changes to the system or its data (Taylor, 2003). Criminals may also obtain illegal access to a computer system to prevent authorized access. Computer crime can be further explained by examining the potential relationships between computers and criminal activity (Tafoya, 1990).

Discussion on Computer Crime

Computers can be targets and instruments of crime. Computers also can be incidental to crime, but may contain evidence of criminal activity that has occurred outside of cyberspace. When targeting computers, offenders access them without authorization, or they damage hardware, software, or data (Speer, 2000).

Commonly referred to as hacking, or cracking, by the popular media, targeting computers for criminal purposes is nothing more than a modern-day form of trespass or vandalism. Access to targeted computers is often gained by exceeding one's authorized computer privileges, by coercing naïve computer users into providing their passwords, or by using software tools that exploit known vulnerabilities in hardware and software. Software and data may be damaged through the use of rogue codes (e.g., viruses, worms, and Trojan horses) or by simply altering or deleting the targeted files (Rider, 2004). Motives for targeting computers include civil disobedience, profit, peer recognition, revenge, curiosity, terrorism, and the intellectual challenge of bypassing security software (Richards, 1999).

The global growth in information technology—alongside unparalleled advances in productivity, commerce, communication, entertainment, and the dissemination of information—has precipitated new forms of antisocial, unethical, and illegal behavior. As more and more users become familiar with computing, the scope and prevalence of the problem grow. Computers and the Internet allowed for the modification of traditional crimes (stalking, fraud, trafficking of child pornography, identity theft) and the development of novel crimes (online piracy, hacking, the creation and distribution of viruses and worms) (Ralph, 2001).

In addition to facilitating traditional crimes, the introduction of computers and the Internet have produced new types of crime (Parker, 1976).

Preventing access to authorized users or causing a computer system to improperly operate is called a “denial of service” attack. Several major company Web sites, including,,, and, have been temporarily disabled as a result of such attacks. In a denial of service attack, Web sites or computer systems are bombarded with so many requests for access that other users cannot obtain access, or the system fails and shuts ...
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