|Home||Chapter 10: Computer Security and Risks|
Computers, networks, and databases play an ever-increasing role in fighting crime. At the same time, law enforcement organizations are facing an increase in computer crime—crimes accomplished through special knowledge of computer technology. Most computer crimes go undetected, and those that are detected often go unreported. But by any estimate, computer crime costs billions of dollars every year.
Many computer criminals use computers and the Internet to steal intellectual property. Many steal credit card numbers and other sensitive information that can be used for financial gain. Some steal entire identities. Others use Trojan horses, viruses, worms, logic bombs, and other types of malware to sabotage systems. According to the media, computer crimes are committed by young, bright computer wizards called hackers. Research suggests, however, that stereotypical hackers are responsible for only a small fraction of computer crimes. The typical computer criminal is a trusted employee with personal or financial problems and knowledge of the computer system. A growing number of crimes are committed by international crime rings with or without government connections. Some types of computer crimes, including software piracy, are committed by everyday computer users who don’t realize—or choose not to recognize—that they’re committing crimes.
Because of rising computer crime and other risks, organizations have developed a number of computer security techniques to protect their systems and data. Some security devices, such as keys and badges, are designed to restrict physical access to computers. But these tools are less effective in an age of networked PCs. Passwords, encryption, shielding, and audit-control software are all used to protect sensitive data in various organizations. When all else fails, backups of important data are used to reconstruct systems after damage occurs. A comprehensive backup strategy involves several different types of backups for maximum security. The most effective security solutions depend on people at least as much as on technology.
Normally, security measures serve to protect our privacy and other individual rights. But occasionally, security procedures threaten those rights. The trade-offs between computer security and freedom raise important legal and ethical questions.
Computer systems aren’t threatened only by criminals; they’re also threatened by software bugs and hardware glitches. An important part of security is protecting systems and the people affected by those systems from the consequences of those bugs and glitches. Because our society uses computers for many applications that put lives and livelihoods at stake, reliability issues are especially important.
In modern military applications, security and reliability are critical. As the speed, power, and complexity of weapons systems increase, many fear that humans are being squeezed out of the decision-making loop. The debate over high-tech weaponry is bringing many important security issues to the public’s attention for the first time. Some of the most powerful weapons in future wars will be software and hardware tools for disabling or destroying the information infrastructure we’ve come to depend on.