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Invasion Of Privacy Computer Virus Internet Essay

, Research Paper

The information age is the age we live in today, and with the information age comes an age of ethics. When we deal with the new technologies introduced every day, we need to decide what we must consider ethical and unethical. We must consider all factors so that the use of the information readily available to many persons is not abused. “Information technology will be the most fundamental area of ethical concern for business in the next decade.” (Ermann)

The most widely used tool of the information age is the computer, whether it is a PC or a network of computer systems. As we enter the information age, the newness and power of information technology’s tests the ethics of the average person, not just the criminal and cause thousands of computer crimes to be committed daily.

Problems associated with the information age

Invasion of

privacy Computer

virus Internet

scamming Junk

E-mails Minors


pornography Fraud


Illegal Downloading Hacking

Cyber chat

The most common computer crime committed daily, some aware and many not, is the

illegal sharing of computer software. Software is any of the programs used in operating a digital

computer, as input and output programs, as defined by Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk

Dictionary. When we purchase computer software, we purchase it with the understanding that it

will be for use on a single computer, once installed on that system, it is not to be loaded on any

other computer. However many people are not aware of this understanding, and many load a

program on a couple of computers or on a whole network of computer systems not aware that

they are committing a crime. Even though you probably will not be prosecuted for loading a

program on a friends computer, this is where your ethics come in.

Do you consider anything when you share a program with others? If not then consider the

programmers of the software who are denied compensation for their developments every time you

distribute a piece of software. “Why is it that people who wouldn’t think of stealing pack of gum

will copy a $500 piece of software”. (Parker)

A popular form off illegal software distribution is throughout the online world. Whether it

be the Internet, America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, or a BBS (Bulletin Board System),

software “pirates” thrive freely online. These so called “pirates” operate by uploading pieces

of software, commonly referred to as “warez”, into an online service’s database then sending

through e-mail the rights to download them. “The Information Superhighway has opened the door

to a new kind of highway robbery – the home shoplifting network” .

When you access a online service, you are identified through an account which most commonly

consists of a user ID and password. The password is so you only can access the online service

with your user ID. Many people online use their own accounts to access their service, but many

steal and use the accounts of others or make fake accounts. When online, these account “pirates”

many times trick other users into giving their passwords to them by impersonating an employee of

the online service. Others can hack into the online services mainframe computer and steal

thousands of accounts. (Biemiller)

Probably the most common method of getting online without paying is the use of fake or

fraudulent accounts. These are made by giving false information when attempting to gain access to

an online service. Name, address, phone number, and billing information, such as checking

account or credit card number, are all falsified in obtaining an online account. With these stolen

and fake accounts, software “pirates” have virtually unlimited time to download their “warez”

without any charge to them. Many people don’t consider the people behind the creation of

software when they illegally distribute it. (Rochlin)

The developers of software are not properly compensated for their work because

of the extent of software piracy. No one can argue with a software company’s desire, and right, to

make sure everyone using their products has paid for it.

The numbers add up, it is estimated that in 1994 alone that software companies

lost $15 billion from illegal software copying. It is not only illegal, but clearly unethical to

distribute software knowing that the people behind the software are experiencing the downfalls of


Every time software companies cannot compensate their programmers for their work, more

people are out of a job. Consider this, you enter a store and purchase an item, during this

transaction you give your name and phone number. The person you have given this information to

then enters it into a computerized database. After this person has collected a sufficient amount of

names, they then sell it to a telemarketing firm for a profit. This action is legal, but is it ethical.

Do you want your name sold without your consent? Most people don’t because they don’t want to

be bothered by sales persons on the telephone. Also, your address could be sold and you put on a

mailing list. Then its an issue of do you want your mailbox filled with junk

mail. (Wellbery). This action is unethical for the simple reason of consent. If the person had just

gained consent to enter the names into his/her database then he would not have committed and

unethical act. One conclusion from studies sponsored by the National Institute of Justice

is that persons involved in computer crimes get form skills and interests at an early age. Usually

they are introduced to computers at home or in school and usually start their “career path” with

illegally copying software.

As young people interact with hackers, they incorporate the beliefs of the hackers into

their own.

Many of these unconventional beliefs of young hackers about information and

computers leads them to a career in computer crime. Many times it is the lack of education by

parents and schools that helps to make these beliefs all the more true to a young person.

Computer criminals have their own set of beliefs about information and computers. Their

beliefs are based on obvious unethical reasoning. For example, hackers believe that computerized

data are free and should be accessible to anyone. They also believe that passwords and other

security features are simply obstacles to be overcome in obtaining data that should

already be available and while data should never be destroyed, there is nothing wrong with

viewing and transferring data for one’s own use. One member of the Legion of Doom, a

nationwide group of hackers who exchange information about computer systems and techniques

to break into them, has said, “Hackers will do just about anything to break into a computer except

crashing a system, that’s the only taboo”. (Biemiller)

The key to stop computer criminals from forming is education. It is often times the case

that people commit computer crimes without even know they are doing so and the reason for this

is the lack of education. Few schools teach computer ethics, and parents of arrested hackers are

usually unaware that their children have been illegally accessing computer systems. Colleges and

universities do not usually include computer use and abuse in their

courses, arguing that it is the responsibility of the schools.

On the other hand, many secondary school educators are not sure about what should be

taught and are reluctant or unable to add ethical computer education to many subjects in the

curriculum. Textbooks on computer literacy rarely mention computer abuses and individual

responsibilities. Educators and software developers have worked together to prevent software

piracy in educational institutions. In 1987, the Software Copyright Committee of the International

Council for Computers in Education (ICCE) developed a policy to guide

educators. The policy call on school districts to teach staff the provisions of the copyright law

and both staff and students the ethical and practical implications of software piracy. This policy

has been adopted by many school districts across the country.

In recognition of the problems arising with the illegal and unethical use of computers,

criminal justice forces have begun to crack down on computer criminals. In 1989, three computer

crime studies were sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. One of these studies

examined different organizational approaches for computer crime investigation and prosecution,

another documented the experiences of several dedicated computer crime units, and the third

developed a computer crime investigation handbook. (Biemiller)

Computers are a permanent fact of life in work places and classrooms across the country.

More businesses are likely to incorporate policies on information access and confidentiality in their

employee orientation and training programs. Many schools and universities, responding from

pressure around them, are beginning to incorporate computer ethics into their courses.

For the criminal justice community, computer crime, which poses special challenges in

detection and prosecution will require more and more attention. In order to prevent computer

crimes in the future, criminal and juvenile justice agencies must look for ways to help parents,

teachers, and employers educate the computer-using community to the importance of ethical

computer behavior.


Biemiller, Lawrence. U.S. Plans New Effort on Computer Security. “The Chronicle of

Higher Education”. Vol 44. Issue 27, March 13, 1998 Pg. A33.

Ermann, David. Computers, Ethics & Society. New York: Oxford University press 1990

Parker, Donn . Ethical Conflicts In Information and Computer Science,

Technology, and Business. Wellesley: QED Information Sciences, Inc. 1990

Rochlin, Gene. Trapped in the Net. Princeton: Princeton University press 1997

Wellbery, Brabara. Privacy in the Information Age. ” Business America” vol. 119

Issue 1 . January 1998 page 12