Monday, August 30, 2010

Computer Issues


Computer Crime 

Every society much make decisions on how to handle crime. In most cultures a judicial system is established. The difficulty with computer crime is it extends country boundaries and is also a topic that is subject to heavy political debate. The first issue is that of finding criminal activity. The easiest method would be a big brother approach were every computer connected to a network would be monitored for illegal activity. This could also be done in a networked approach, where each Internet Service Provider (ISP) would watch their own users and the report potentially criminal behavior to authorities. In the United State, the FBI is trying to standardize this process through their Carnivoire project. The ethical dilemma is that these monitoring techniques invade personal privacy while on the Internet. A system should be established that will allow people there right to privacy and free assembly while dampening the amount of criminal activity that exists today on the Internet.
Types of Computer Crime 

Typically, computer crime can be categorized by the type of activity which occurs.  Four basic categories are utilized in describing computer crime.  These are:  theft, fraud, copyright infringement, and attacks.

 1. Theft.  Theft in computer crime may refer to either unauthorized removal of physical items such as hardware or unauthorized removal or copying of data or information.    It is well known that laptop computers are targeted at airports and restaurants.  The prize garnered with theft of a laptop is usually the data or information such as passwords for corporate systems contained on the laptops rather than the hardware.

 2. Fraud.  Fraud on the Internet may run the gamut from credit card offers which are utilized only
to capture personal information, to investor postings which promote a stock or investment offer
to encourage investment which will benefit the person posting the information, to medical and
pharmaceutical -related sites which purport to provide correct medical advice or sell altered

 3. Copyright infringement.  The Internet has provided a unique opportunity and environment for copyright infringement.  This type of computer crime encompasses use of software, music, etc which is not appropriately acquired ( purchased).  Software piracy occurs more easily with the ability to post files for downloading all over the world.  However, another more costly copyright infringement occurs when trademarks and logos of corporations are posted on non-authorized web sites.  Some criminals utilize the trademarks and logos to appear to be a legitimate site to perpetrate fraud.  Many corporations have employees or consulting contractors who constantly crawl the web to sniff out illegal usage of trademarks and logos.

 4. Attacks on organizations and individuals.  Attacks on organizational information systems may be either physical or logical.  There are several instances of web sites, products, and individuals
being libeled or attacked by individuals or groups.  One of the classic examples was the attack on Proctor and Gamble as an occult organization.  AOL and other ISPs cooperate fully with criminal justice systems to reveal identities of those deploying web sites of question.

Denial of Service Attacks (DoS) target specific web sites and associated servers.  Some of the newsworthy examples of DoS during 2000 - 2001 have occurred at,, and  Web servers and connections can only handle so much traffic so Denial of Service (DoS) usually take the form of one of two ways:
 - Coordinated attack (typically from unsuspecting desktops) to a particular IP address or
    URL requesting a page - overwhelms server and DoS occurs
 - Attack sends incomplete packets so that traffic gets jammed with requests for re-send.

In this era of computer "viruses" and international spying by "hackers" who are thousands of miles away, it is clear that computer security is a topic of concern in the field of Computer Ethics. The problem is not so much the physical security of the hardware (protecting it from theft, fire, flood, etc.), but rather "logical security", which Spafford, Heaphy and Ferbrache divide into five aspects: 
 1.  Privacy and confidentiality
 2.  Integrity -- assuring that data and programs are not modified without proper
 3.  Unimpaired service
 4.  Consistency -- ensuring that the data and behavior we see today will be the same
 5.  Controlling access to resources

Malicious kinds of software, or "programmed threats", provide a significant challenge to computer security. These include "
viruses", which cannot run on their own, but rather are inserted into other computer programs; "worms" which can move from machine to machine across networks, and may have parts of themselves running on different machines; "Trojan horses" which appear to be one sort of program, but actually are doing damage behind the scenes; "logic bombs" which check for particular conditions and then execute when those conditions arise; and "bacteria" or "rabbits" which multiply rapidly and fill up the computer's memory.


There are several classes of activities which may also harm information systems and supporting technology.  These activities may result in criminal charges depending upon the circumstances and impact on information systems.  Currently, these activities fall within classes of viruses, worms, Trojan Horse, time bomb, logic bomb, and trapdoors.

1. Viruses.  A virus is a program with intent to harm or render a computer system useless.  The virus method of attack is to attach itself to specific files such as data files.  It is not a free standing program.  It copies itself when the infected file is executed.

A virus can damage data, delete files, erase your hard drive, or just cause annoying screen displays or sounds.  Viruses may hide within macros of Word or Excel documents.  Some viruses are programmed to trigger execution on a particular date or time.  Viruses do not cause hardware damage.  Viruses spread from file to file.  There are thousands of documented viruses!!!!  Some recent examples of viruses include the Melissa, Chernobyl, and Michelangelo.

Most virus protection software provides monthly updates to ensure that the computer system is covered from recent virus discoveries.  Two of the more popular versions of virus protection include Norton (Symantec) and Mc Afee.

2. Worms.  Worms are another destructive program designed to create instability information systems and supporting technology.  Worms differ from viruses in that a worm is a free standing program.  A worm executes on its own functionality.  Worms spread from computer system to computer system rather than from file to file.
Examples of notorious worms include the July and August, 2001 attack of CODE RED on IIS servers.  IIS (Internet Information Services) is part of the Microsoft Windows Server operating system which provides internet connectivity.  Servers including federal government web sites, Qwest DSL servers, and other corporate or governmental sites were hit.

A worm can reply to e-mails while attaching itself to the e-mail; can destroy File Allocation System (FAT) on Windows systems and other similar attacks on other files systems on hard drives.  Because worms are free standing, they can spread on their own and do not require  human intervention to spread.  Thus, in some ways, worms are more lethal than viruses.

3. Trojan Horse.  This software derives its name from the Greek mythology depicting war activity between the Greeks and Trojans of Troy.  The Greeks pretended to depart the besieged Troy but left behind a giant wooden horse as a “gift”.  The Trojans brought the horse within the gates of Troy and Greek warriors were hidden in the horse.  The Greek warriors then captured Troy. Therefore, the Trojan Horse appears to have one function but in reality does something else.

Pornography or porn is the portrayal of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement and erotic satisfaction. It is rampant within society. It is an epidemic that is damaging the lives of young people, destroying marriages, producing false views of sex and beauty, and degrading women. The pornography industry has increased rapidly, and its increased availability has weakened moral and public standards that have traditionally stood opposed to pornography. The combination of the weakening moral standard and the increased availability has caused its effects to become even more widespread, making proper teaching about pornography a necessity.


Unlike most computer crime / misuse areas which are clear cut in terms of actions and legalities (e.g. software piracy), computer hacking is more difficult to define. Computer hacking always involves some degree of infringement on the privacy of others or damage to computer-based property such as files, web pages or software. The impact of computer hacking varies from simply being simply invasive and annoying to illegal. There is an aura of mystery that surrounds hacking,and a prestige that accompanies being part of a relatively "elite" group of individuals who possess technological savvy and are willing to take the risks required to become a true "hacker". An interesting alternative view of how hackers positively impact areas such as software development and hacker ideology is presented in Technology and Pleasure: Considering Hacking Constructive.
Even attempting to define the term "hacker" is difficult. Perhaps the premiere WWW resource in introducing individuals to hacking is the The New Hacker's Dictionary (, a resource which encompasses everything from hacker slang, jargon, hacker folklore, writing style and speech to general appearance, dress, education and personality characteristics. According to The New Hacker's Dictionary, a hacker can be defined as:
  1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.
  2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming.
  3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.
  4. A person who is good at programming quickly.
  5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it.
  6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.
  7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
  8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence 'password hacker', 'network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is cracker.
Even within hacker society, the definitions range from societally very positive (dare I say characteristic of gifted and talented individuals) to criminal. In his book, "Fighting Computer Crime: A New Framework for Protecting Information" (1998), Donn B. Parker lists two basic principles hacker live by:
  1. The belief that information sharing is a powerful good and that it is the ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and facilitating access to information and to computing resources whenever possible.
  2. The belief that system cracking for fun and exploitation is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no theft, vandalism or breach of confidentiality.
Parker differentiates between benign and malicious hackers based on whether damage is performed, though in reality all hacking involves intrusion and a disregard for the efforts, works and property of others.

A number of issues arise in considering hacking from the educator perspective. First, we need to consider the fact that the public perception of hackers is mixed, and that "hacking" and "being considered a hacker" can be quite appealing to students who are going through developmental periods in which they are defining themselves, as well as challenging authority and rules. There is often a Robin Hood mentality to early actions, though it is unclear exactly who "the poor" are, and how they are "being compensated". Second, the anonymity of actions which hackers perform against others often enhances the severity of actions. For example, an adolescent who would never consider picking someone's pocket or physically damaging someone else's property or home, might be quite willing to steal people's credit card numbers or destroy poorly protected business or government files, since files and credit card numbers are not tangible entities, and the damage is done anonymously.
The media often presents these individuals in a glamorous light. Adolescents may fantasize about their degree of technological skills and, lacking the social skills required to be accepted well by others, move online in search of those who profess to have technological skills the students desire. A simple search using the term "hacker" with any search engine results in hundreds of links to illegal serial numbers, ways to download and pirate commercial software, etc. Showing this information off to others may result in the students being considered a "hacker" by their less technologically savvy friends, further reinforcing antisocial behavior. In some cases, individuals move on to programming and destruction of other individuals programs through the writing of computer viruses and Trojan horses, programs which include computer instructions to execute a hacker's attack. If individuals can successfully enter computers via a network, they may be able to impersonate an individual with high level security clearance access to files, modifying or deleting them or introducing computer viruses or Trojan horses. As hackers become more sophisticated,they may begin using sniffers to steal large amounts of confidential information, become involved in burglary of technical manuals, larceny or espionage.

Ways to Minimize Potential for Hacking
There are a number of ways for schools to minimize potential for hacking.
  1. Schools need to clearly establish acceptable use policies and delineate appropriate and inappropriate actions to both students and staff.
  2. Students and staff need to instructed regarding hacking, the mentality associated with it, the consequences of various hacking actions and possible consequences of interacting and forming online relationships with anonymous individuals who claim to be proficient in invading others' privacy.
  3. The use of filters may be considered in reducing access to unauthorized software serial numbers and hacking-related materials, newsgroups, chatrooms and hacking organizations.
  4. Teachers need to be aware of student activities in the computer labs and pay special attention to things they hear in terms of hacking behavior.
Many schools have taken intiative in having teachers work with technology-oriented students who exhibit many of the characteristics which may eventually lead to hacking-type behaviors. Recent web-based activities and competitions, including ThinkQuest, Web to the Edge and ExploraVision, are outstanding opportunities for these and other technologically oriented students to utilize their interests, energies and abilities in a postive way.

Computer addiction

Computer addiction refers to the excessive amounts of time spent on the computer. The preoccupation can cause problems with relationships and even with work performance. The time spent on the computer does not refer to work-related activities.

The list of signs and symptoms mentioned in various sources for Computer addiction includes the 12 symptoms listed below:
 1. Anxiety if access to computer denied
 2. Persistent need to spend excessive amount of time on the computer
 3. Neglecting other duties in order to spend time on the computer
 4. Forgoing social activities in order to spend time on the computer
 5. Neglecting family relationships in order to spend time on the computer
 6. Compulsive need to spend time on the computer
 7. Feeling empty when not at the computer
 8. Feeling irritable when not at the computer
 9. Feeling depressed when not at the computer
 10. Lying to other people about amount of time spent on the computer
 11. Social isolation
 12. Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

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