Parents, teachers, non-profits, government, and industry have been working hard to protect kids online. However, we also need to think about protecting the Internet from kids who might abuse it.
The Department of Justice categorizes computer crime in three ways:
- The computer as a target - attacking the computers of others (spreading viruses is an example).
- The computer as a weapon - using a computer to commit "traditional crime" that we see in the physical world (such as fraud or illegal gambling).
- The computer as an accessory - using a computer as a "fancy filing cabinet" to store illegal or stolen information.
Reports of alleged computer crime have been a hot news item of late. Especially alarming is the realization that many of the masterminds behind these criminal acts are mere kids. In fact, children no longer need to be highly skilled in order to execute cyber crimes. "Hacker tools" are easily available on the Net and, once downloaded, can be used by even novice computer users. This greatly expands the population of possible wrongdoers. Children (and in some cases - their parents) often think that shutting down or defacing Web sites or releasing network viruses are amusing pranks. Kids might not even realize that what they are doing is illegal. Still other kids might find themselves hanging out online with skilled hackers who share hacking tools with them and encourage them to do inappropriate things online. Unfortunately, some of these kids don't realize that they are committing crimes until it is too late. Even more distressing and difficult to combat is the fact that some in the media portray the computer criminal as a modern day Robin Hood. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So what are cyber crimes? Can the law enforcement authorities find criminals online? How can you create context for your children to understand what cyber crimes are? The following information (and areas throughout the site) will help familiarize you with unethical and illegal online behavior. Additionally, to learn more about cyber crime, visit the Department of Justice Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section's website at www.cybercrime.gov.
The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at www.cert.org and the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the FBI at www.infragard.net provides regularly updated information and descriptions of cyber crimes.