The widespread adoption of the personal computer has changed the way we live.
Every day personal computers (PCs) become more and more mainstream, performing
various functions in our business, personal and recreational environments. They have
automated many of the menial tasks of business, such as accounting, payroll, filing,
record keeping, etc. This increased use of technology has caught the attention of the
criminal element. The computer has become both target and tool to a new breed of
cyber-criminal. Computers are becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life. They
also provide new opportunities for criminal enterprise. The computer provides both new
types of ...view middle of the document...
Over time, the designation "hacker" came to be associated with programmers and disseminators of computer viruses, and the public perception of hackers continues to be one of lone computer experts with a taste for mischief or mayhem. But "hacking" has come to encompass a wide range of other computer crimes as well, many of them primarily grounded in efforts to make money. Indeed, the vital information kept in computers has made them a target for corporate espionage, fraud, and embezzlement efforts.
Internal and External Threats
As criminologist and computer-insurance executive Ron Hale indicated to Tim McCollum of Nation's Business, one of the most unsettling facts about computer crime is that the greatest threat to information security for small businesses is their employees. As McCollum noted, "a company's employees typically have access to its personal computers and computer networks, and often they know precisely what business information is valuable and where to find it." The reasons for these betrayals are many, ranging from workplace dissatisfaction to financial or family difficulties.
Computer crimes perpetrated by outsiders are a major threat too, of course, but whereas employees often abscond with sensitive information or attempt to benefit financially when engaging in illegal activities, outsiders are more likely to engage in behavior that is simply destructive (i.e., computer viruses). Some security experts believe that the continued threat of outside "hackers" is due at least in part to the growing number of employees who engage in "telecommuting" via modem and the swelling ranks of company networks hooked to the Internet. These connections can be used to infiltrate computer systems. The damage wreaked by outside intruders can be significant and wide-ranging. As Scott Charney, chief of the U.S. Justice Department's section on computer crime, told Nation's Business, many companies never find out that information has been stolen, while other businesses are heavily damaged by the incursion. Yet many companies do not report thefts and other security breaches that they do discover because they fear that the publicity will result in a loss of prestige and/or business.
VIRUSES. The most common outside threat to a business's computer network is the virus. Indeed, the National Computer Security Association (NCSA) estimated that in 1996, two out of three U.S. companies were affected by one or more of the estimated 16,000 computer viruses that were floating around the country at that time. "Viruses infect your machine by attaching themselves to programs, files, and start-up instructions," wrote Cassandra Cavanah in Entrepreneur. "There are two main types of computer viruses: macro and binary. Macro viruses are written to attack a specific program…. Binary viruses are either actual programs designed to attack your data or attach themselves to program files to do similar destruction. Binary viruses are the ones to be concerned with; they can...