My second essay, graded A by my GP teacher.
Written: 18 February 2009
Cybercrime, hacking, blackmailing, fraud, theft and extortion; these are the first few types of crimes come into our mind when we are presented with the words “technology” and “crime”. One of the reasons might be that we all have been prone to the nuisance caused by any of these crimes at least once, as almost everyone these days has access to the computer and the internet. Crime has existed as long as humans and will only become extinct with us. Why? Because offending and violating laws is defined as crime, and laws are created by man. No one can deny that technology has elevated crime rates and has even given birth to a variety of new crimes, but has it not done enough to solve them? Before a conclusion is made, this topic will be assessed by using various examples.
Cell phones, email and instant messaging have facilitated the criminals into “doing their job” by lessening their communication gap to only seconds. Criminal masterminds from different countries no longer have to sit in the same conference room and plot, with the fear of any law enforcement agency locating their secret meeting place. All they have to do is either talk to each other on their cell phones using conference calling and send and receive written and graphical information on the same device, or simply send an email. This is one of the major reasons why crimes such as car theft, robbery, stalking and terrorism have mounted, according to a statistical report by police departments from England, USA and Australia, . Crimes like drug dealing don’t depend on letters, or dealers to visit the purchaser personally anymore. A simple phone call will suffice as a source of contact between the two parties. A phone call and the price will be arranged between the two. A phone call and the dealer will be told where to drop the drugs. A phone call and the purchaser will be informed of any hindrances occurring. A phone call and the purchaser will be able to tell his friends about the arrival of their long awaited treats. Technology has really revolutionised everything…
What was mentioned before was just a list of examples of crimes which have increased in rate due to technology. Let us also consider the crimes which came into being because of modern technology. Hacking, being the most well known and famous crime of the modern era, can now be done anywhere, anytime. Every innocent computer can be used to hack, either into a bank, a firm, or a house, depending on the hackers skills. Once he or she is successful in doing so, results can be disastrous. Millions can be stolen from a bank in minutes after the hacker sneaks in. Valuable and personal information about an individual can be accessible once their system is broken into. What home computer users should also be aware of is a recent technique developed by cyber criminals called phishing, pronounced the same way as fishing and uses a similar technique. New internet users or naive internet users are the main target of phishing and this is what the process is. The criminal creates a web page which looks totally identical to a respectable online shopping website. Next, the link to the web page is sent via an email to random users, and in even the email is created in such a format that it resembles what the original website will send. This is the bait. The user when clicks the link, he or she is taken to that web page, and there the user enters all their personal information, like credit card number, address, whatever the page ask for. As the page is the exact copy of the original website, chances are extremely rare that it will ever be figured out that the website is a fake one. Once all the information is entered, it is sent to the hacker’s server where the web page is saved, and that is when Christmas arrives earlier than usual for the hacker. Computer viruses, though not putting a user’s personal information in jeopardy, do cause a nuisance. It can spread throughout the hard-disk like a disease, and is transferrable through any storage device connected to the infected computer or any email sent from the infected computer. It can cause data to be over-written, thus making it unrecoverable, and if it is valuable data, it can cause terrible loss to the victim. Everyone is prone to these crimes. I have really presented the dark side of technology, haven’t I? But If no counter measures are taken to prevent these, then people must have stopped using the internet and stopped going out of their homes in fear of these criminals on the streets and behind every computer screen. Banks and business would have ceased their functions, but they have not. May be because there is something out there which is as strong as the technology which criminals possess; I am pointing towards technology. Yes, it is technology itself which is preventing these criminals from committing new crimes, even though it is itself who taught them how to perform it.
Technology is fair. When it helped criminals by providing them with new and seemingly flawless techniques, it also provided law enforcement agencies and the general public with skills and gadgets to fight against the criminals. Burglar alarms installed in houses have been very effective since their invention, which resulted in discouraging burglars because they now learnt that everyone had their homes equipped with these gadgets. Increasing car theft led to the birth of alarms which triggered when the car was opened without its original keys, and car tracking systems which could monitor the position of the car using satellites. All a victim of car theft had to do was to call their respective tracker company, ask them to locate the position of the car, stop its engines, lock the doors so that the thief cannot escape and send the police to that specific location. Emails, calls, and text messages can be erased from computers and mobile phones, but they are still recorded by the email provider and the cell phone operator. A suspect’s records can be checked by law enforcement companies through these providers and operators, and if found guilty, he or she can be brought to justice. Other types of gadgets involved in solving crimes are finger print detectors, which are used to identify the criminal at the crime scene by detecting finger prints and sending them to a database to check for matches. The metal detectors and infrared baggage sensors, most seen at airports, are effectively doing their job and are an essential part of preventing crime.
Though hackers and “phishermen” seem to be unstoppable, that is not how it seems. A firewall is hardware or software installed on a computer system or connected to the main gateway of the system managing the internet and network connections. This firewall acts like a security guard, managing all the incoming an outgoing traffic. If something suspicious arrives, like a hacker’s code sent to break into a system, it blocks it from entering the network thus keeping all the computers connected to the network secure. Even if a hacker somehow does get access to the system and damages, the computer IP address is recorded. An IP address is like a unique identity given to a computer when it connects to the internet, and if an IP address is known, the specific location of the computer can be easily obtained. Virus Scanners are present in every computer system, which frequently scan for viruses and also provide real-time protection against them. To protect against phishing, several softwares integrated into the internet browser, called plug-ins, are installed to monitor every site and to check its integrity. A suspicious site is automatically blocked by them, making it safe for any user to browse the internet.
Now it seems like the balance is equal. We now see that though technology has evolved crime, it has also given birth to new techniques to solve and prevent it. It has been equally just to criminals and law enforcement authorities. It is like giving a child a toy car, but also giving the parents a remote to control that toy. Saying that technology has done MORE to increase crime than it has done to solve it does not seem true because from the examples we have learnt that for every crime created by technology or aided by technology, an opposite is also created which cancels out those crimes. It equally solves crime as much as it increases it. When on one side technology can be blamed for the increase in crime rates, it also has to be given credit for solving them. It is like a balance, an equation, with positives and negatives cancelling out each other.