Internet Crimes Essay, Research Paper
The Internet is a wondrous place. Practically anything you could ever want
is available on the Net. It’s like a big city, it has the highly
prestigious areas, and the sex-ridden slums. It has the upstanding
citizens, and it has the criminals. On the Net, crime is more abundant
than in a large city, though, mainly because of the difficulties in
tracking and prosecuting offenders. Even from its beginnings, the Internet
has always been a battlefield between phreaks and administrators.
The Internet hasn’t always been a public forum. In fact, the Internet has
been around for years. The Internet is just a new fad (”The More I Learn”
A1). The Internet originally began as DARPANET, a government-created
network, which was designed for defense communications. The Net structure
is such that it could survive a nuclear war (”Internet History”). The
creation of the Net can not be blamed for the existence of hackers though,
hackers are older than the Net itself, but the Net is the largest ‘hacker
haven’ today (Spencer, “Hacking McDonalds” 6).
The growth of the Net since its creation has been nothing less than
astounding. In the 25-plus years since its creation, the Net now has over
thirty million users using four million sites worldwide. Estimates rate
the growth of the Net anywhere from ten to fifteen percent per month
(Spencer, “Hacking McDonalds” 6).
The Internet was first released to major universities in the United States
of America. Since then, the universities have offered connections to small
business, service providers, and even to the individual user. Sometimes
these connections cost a fortune, and sometimes they can be obtained for
free (”Internet History”). Although some of the original universities have
dropped off the Net for various reasons, every major university in the
United States, and now, most others in the world, have a connection to the
Internet (Quittner 61).
Although it isn’t easy for an individual to get a direct connection to the
Net, many private institutions are getting connections. This is mainly due
to the fact that in order to support the very high speed of the Net, a fast
computer is needed and a fast connection. A fast computer can cost in the
tens of thousands of dollars, at least, and a fast connection can cost
twenty thousand dollars or more, followed by a few thousand dollars a year.
Individuals can still get on the Net through these private institutions.
The private institution spoon-feeds the Net to the slower computers over
their slower connection lines (Spencer, “Stranglehold” 8).
The Internet began very high-class, due to the fact that only
superintelligent college students and professors could access it. The
discussions tended to stay intellectual, with very little, if any,
disturbance (”Internet History”).
However, relatively recent changes in the availability of the Net have
changed that atmosphere. Now, almost anyone can access the Internet.
Internet access is offered by every major online service (Himowitz A1).
The fact that the major online services charge for their use keeps many
people away from them. Those people simply turn to public dial-ups, which
are free connections offered by universities that are available to the
general public (Spencer, “Know Your Territory” 27).
Because accessing the Net is easier, and a lot more people are doing it,
naturally the amount of information on the Net is increasing at the same
rate, if not faster. In what is often referred to by Net users as the
Resource Explosion, the amount of information circulating the Internet has
increased more than proportionately with the number of users (Spencer,
“Hacking McDonalds” 6).
Of all the other factors contributing to the large percent of online crimes,
perhaps the most influential is the design structure of the Internet.
Experts agree that the underlying structure with no central hub, where each
computer is equally powerful, gives unchecked power to the undeserving
(Spencer, “Stranglehold” 8).
The design also makes controlling the frequency of break-ins almost
impossible as well. Both politicians and so-called ‘experts’ believe the
Internet as a whole will be regulated in the next five years. Hackers
disagree, using the arguments that the Internet was designed to be
uncontrollable, that the basic structure doesn’t support regulation
(Spencer, “Stranglehold” 8). I must agree. In a network run by its users,
which is designed to be impervious to attack, not even the government has
much muscle there.
In fact, the Internet is one of the few places that the government has
little power. Because the Net is international, any regulations forced
upon domestic computer users can be circumvented by routing through an
overseas computer (Savage). The government doesn’t have the power to
completely shut down the Net. In order to do that, every one of the
millions of computers on the Net must be disconnected. Even if only two
remain, the Net will continue to exist (Spencer, “Hacking McDonalds” 6).
To ease of adding something to the Net is also a factor preventing the
total regulation of the Net. A new site can be added to the Net in a
matter of seconds, and can be removed just as quickly. It takes
authorities considerable time to trace a connection back to it’s physical
address, and if it disappears, it makes tracking it all that more difficult
Once a resource becomes widespread, removing it from the Internet is almost
impossible. Each site that has the resource must be found and the resource
removed. If even one site has the resource, it can spread to cover the Net
easily (Spencer, “Stranglehold” 8).
With all these things leaving the Internet open to phreaking, is it any
wonder that so many phreaks exist? The United States Government has all of
its computer systems on the Internet, yet many universities have better
security than government computers containing confidential information
(Spencer, “Know” 27). A majority of break-ins occur in university
computers, mainly because of the stiff penalties for being caught in a
government computer (FtS, “Avoiding”). Over 10,000 break-ins that have
occurred in recent months are blamed on The Posse, a group of young phreaks
(Quittner 61). If break-ins are done on universities, then how secure are
the government’s secrets?
Both hackers and phreakers tend to stay away from heavy-duty government
hacking, though. Exploring innocently and generally harmless pranks are
done the most, and many hacks/phreaks don’t limit themselves to the
Internet, or even to a computer (Spencer, “Hacking McDonalds” 6). The next
step up for a good computer hack/phreak is to ‘field phreaking’, which
covers many various activities, but mainly using telephone company boxes to
make free calls and other various things, but most field phreaking is
somehow technically related to their computer skills (FtS, “Field
Field phreaking does happen, and it does happen quite a lot. For example,
when two bachelors rented a billboard in hopes of finding a mate, a phreak
broke into their voice mail box and changed the message to a “‘perverted’
sexually suggestive message” (UPI).
More recently, a hacker obtained tens of thousands of passwords using a
Trojan horse program, which records the first 128 keystrokes when someone
connects to the Internet. These 128 keystrokes normally contain the user’s
name and their password (AP).
Kevin Lee Poulsen was featured on Unsolved Mysteries in 1991 for charges
including tampering with the telephone network and stealing government
documents, all via computer. Because of this appearance, he was captured
by two bag-boys in a Hughes Supermarket who saw his picture on the show
Tonya Harding’s E-mail in the Olympic computers was “open to the public
since she never changed her password from it’s default, 1112, which
corresponds to her birthday, December 11th” (Nevius).
Mark Abene, whom many believe to be the greatest phreak ever, who is known
online as Phiber Optik, was sentenced to one year in prison, a stiff
punishment for his charge of breaking into a telephone network (Deadkat).
Although the job is hard, there are groups devoted to stopping violations
committed online. One such group, the Computer Emergency Response Team, or
CERT, a government-funded team at Carnegie-Mellon University gives
advisories and support to systems that have been broken into or are at risk
of being broken into (”Internet History”).
Another method of preventing break-ins are new security measures. Almost
every day, another operating system or communication protocol comes out
which covers holes found in previous copies of the software. This is good
as a temporary solution, but as soon as the new software comes out, a new
hole is found and the game continues (FtS, “Avoiding”).
Stopping computer hacking is probably impossible, although undoubtedly
stopping hacking altogether is impossible. Why? Because many
professionals spend millions of dollars to prevent break-ins, but smaller
systems don’t spend anything. Free security will never be able to hold
everyone out. FtS Productions said it best in “Avoiding Detection”: “Free
Security You get what you pay for.”