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December 10, 2010

V - Cyber crimes – issues, problems and perspectives

Computers store huge amounts of data in small spaces: Millions of pages of written matter can be stored in a single CD ROM. Stealing tonnes of printed information is exceedingly difficult, but walking out of a secure location with a CD ROM containing tonnes of information is much simpler.

Ease of access: A bank's vault, which usually contains lots of cash and is  well guarded from unauthorized persons. The vault itself is made of very strong materials, located in a reinforced room, guarded by gun toting security personnel. Trusted employees jealously guard the keys and / or access codes.
The bank's servers, on the other hand, which 'virtually' control hundreds of transactions  involving huge amounts of money are far easier to break into. The strongest of firewalls and biometric authentication systems have been cracked in the past and will probably continue to be cracked in the future.
A secretly implanted logic bomb, key loggers that can steal access codes, advanced voice recorders; retina imagers etc. that can fool biometric systems can be utilized to get past many a security system.
Complexity: Operating systems are composed of millions of lines of code and no single individual can claim to understand the security implications of every bit of these computer instructions.
Hackers easily exploit the numerous weaknesses in operating systems and security products. When one weakness is exposed and exploited openly by the 'black hat' community, the operating system manufacturer patches it up.
The hackers then find another weakness to exploit and the cycle goes on and on. It is far easier to find weaknesses in existing operating systems rather than designing and developing a secure operating system.
Human negligence: People who guard confidential papers with their lives would not think twice about using simple passwords. Most people don't realize the security implications and ramifications of not following the prescribed computer security policies.

III. Cyber Criminals – A Profile

Kids (age group 9-16): It seems really difficult to believe but it is true. Most amateur hackers and cyber criminals are young children. To them it is a matter of pride to have hacked into a computer system or a website. There is also that little issue of appearing really smart among friends. These young rebels may also commit cyber crimes without really knowing that they are doing anything illegal.
Organized hacktivists: Hacktivists are hackers with a particular (mostly political) motive. In other cases this reason can be social activism, religious activism, etc. The 2001 attacks on approximately 200 prominent Indian websites by a group of hackers known as Pakistani Cyber Warriors are an example of political hacktivists at work.
Disgruntled employees : One can hardly believe how spiteful displeased employees can become. Till now they had the option of going on strike against their bosses. Now, with the increase in dependence on computers and the automation of processes, it is easier for disgruntled employees to do more harm to their employers by committing computer related crimes, which can bring entire systems down.

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