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Cybercrime: Hacking and Its Prosecution

Introduction

The invention of the new technology has brought with it many developments and made life easy. The greatest challenge is whether the developments in technology are exposing private and classified information due to hacking. Credit card numbers have been stolen and vital information concerning an organization has been shared publicly. Other electronic crimes have also emerged with people stealing the identity of others, e-mail scum, pornography and other crimes have been witnessed. Hacking cannot be underestimated as some of the well-known terrorist attacks have occurred with the help of hackers, who give them the information that they need.

David Cecil, a hacker, was charged for hacking Platform Networks. This essay will discuss why and how Platform Networks can undertake measures to reduce hacking. In order to understand, this paper will briefly investigate the history of hacking and methods of hacking and then give the measures.

Definition of hacking

Kreider (1999 p. 1) defines hacking as the unlawful intrusion of a computer or a computer system to gain access to documents and to control the system. Mitchell (2011, p.1) indicates that hacking in the past meant that a person modified or used the computer without the permission of the owner. Later the meaning developed to mean the unauthorized access of a network and system connections. In the contemporary world, hacking refers to harmful activities on the internet, especially on programs. Another definition given by Dickey (2010, p. 1) says that hacking is the art of making a computer program work and making it suit the user.

History Background of hacking

Information is valuable to individuals and to organizations. People have not been able to get information from others without asking them to get an answer. They cannot get information by looking at an individual thus, people have used the behaviour of an individual to translate what the other people know. Getting information from people’s behaviour is not reliable since people can behave differently from what they know or believe. Hackers have formed subcultures (Jaishankar 2007, p. 1).

Kreider (1999) points out that a number of students, out of curiosity, wanted to explore and believed that the computer could be faster and perform additional tasks. The students used the computer at the Railroad Club only at the allocated time. This was in mid 19th century when the students dedicated their late hours of the night to hack and write programs. The system was complicated and so the students made their own programs. The hackers valued time and so they became organized and they ensured that the computer was in use around the clock. Sharing of knowledge was common as the hackers had to write programs on their own.

Hacking began to spread with the invention of the internet as Mitchell (2011, p. 1) reveals. Some hackers were interested in making free calls over a long distance and so they modified the telephone. Young & Rogers (1998, p. 26) add that some were addicted to the internet and began to do the crime.

A person whose program lacks a meaningful objective and whose aim is to fulfil their desire can be named as a hacker as indicated by Kreider (1999). Therefore, the students who came up with games, superior programs as well as invented musical programs were referred to as hackers. Consequently, the hackers’ first ethic was maximization of time used in the computer. Other ethics that emerged encouraged unlimited access to computers and sharing of information. The hackers also valued the innovativeness and creativity of arts in computers. Authorities were not welcomed as they believed in decentralization. Experts were known for their ability to hack as opposed to the level of education. Hacking was believed to have the potential of changing an individual’s status.

The ethics of the hackers were developed because computers were reserved for administrative purposes, research activities and for those who have pioneered in college education. Internet was reserved for advanced students hence the hacklers were not able to utilize the technology and employ their creativity. Computers did not have security hence harmless information was shared. Hacker’s belief in the power of a computer to transform the lives of human beings was not welcome. The hackers received resistance because their ethics were against the bureaucracy of the institutions in possession of computers. This was due to the fact that the hackers may impede the systems negatively with or without the intentions (Adamski 1998).

Difference between a hacker and cracker

Kreider (1999, p. 1) argues that a cracker differs from a hacker in that whereas a hacker follows the hacker’s ethics, the crackers do not have any ethics. According to Stallman (2002, p. 1), the crackers gain access with a negative motive to destroy the system while the hackers use their intelligence to get access without causing any harm. Crackers are often inexperienced and lack adequate knowledge hence they use commonly known methods to invade the systems causing havoc. Although both hackers and crackers gain illegal access, they have different motives. Hackers strongly believe they are different from the crackers even though if caught, the law will apply to both.

Hacking methods

Hackers have different ways of hacking, most of which are in form of programs. Mitchell (2011, p.1) says that the programs target data exchange within networks where the hacker will gain information about the specific system or computer they are interested in. The programs are used for further studies to develop more superior programs. For this reason, Jordan and Paul (1998, p. 770), state that companies or network systems employ hackers who are knowledgeable to learn and to assist the network to prevent other hackers.

Hackers are tactful as revealed by Kreider (1999, p. 1). They begin attacking as easy targets and proceed to complex ones. Since their goal is to gain access to highly secure sites, they have control of the system. This implies that they are able to obtain classified files, edit them or even install others. They do so carefully so that their intrusion is not recognized.

German (1993, p.262) says that Software bugs are used by hackers. The hacker is able to use the default username and passwords that the manufacturers or distributors of products give. Failure to change the default password and user name expose a system to hackers.

Files that contain usernames and a database of passwords that are encrypted are of value to the hackers if the file can be accessed publicly. Out of their innovativeness, the hackers engage in using different combinations to get access.

Amarpals (2011, p. 1) says that hacking into a target computer is not complicated. The hacker begins by gathering available information and proceeds to scan the port after studying the footprints. Next, the hacker finds the fingerprints of the Operating System. The following steps involve grabbing the banner and checking how vulnerable the hacker will be if they proceed further. Next, the hacker tactfully searches and then initiates the attack. One must sustain the attack with the help of Trojans. Lastly, the hacker must cover all the tracks so that they are not traced.

Hughes & DeLone (2007, p. 94) point out that the use of worms that consist of Trojans as well as viruses are a common method. They may spread across the network and may cause malfunction and slow down the processes in the computer. The hackers can make the networks be denied access to some sites. Moreover, they may choose to set up remote access that is unacceptable to the devices.

Some programs send as an attachment in an email run when they are selected. Other programs run automatically without being activated. This is a method that hackers can use to gain access without being noticed. These programs enable the hacker to see the screen, log in by typing keys, edit files and use programs on the hacked computer without being noticed.

Hackers have devised ways of using IP spoofing. In this, case a computer impersonates to be another computer that is allowed access to classified files by the system. This way the hacker gains access to the system (Pfleeger & Rue 2008).

Hackers value knowledge. Getting as much information about the systems and how programs run is of great concern to them. When a system is highly advanced, they are keen to investigate and obtain an understanding of the system. They then design their own programs that will enable them to disable the other program and exploit the system. To be able to do so, the hackers must depend on the emerging discoveries and developments in the electronic world. Consequently, hackers share their bugs and other programs that enable them to achieve their desired target.

Types of hacking

In line with Amarpals (2011, p. 1), there are three most prominent ways of hacking into a computer. The first is local hacking, where there is intensive local access using worms. The second is social engineering where the personal information of another person is exposed. This type is also effective in cases of fraud and deceptive situations in the use of a computer. The last type is remote hacking where the hacker takes advantage of the specific system of interest due to its weaknesses. Attacking such a computer is not complicated.

Rationale of hacking

Kreider (1999, p. 18) points out that hacking is pursuing power. The recent developments in the world point at a shift in the capital where the most valued assets of any organization or of an individual are information or knowledge. Therefore, in the new world order, the most powerful will be those in possession of information. More and more people are gaining access to computers and in the near future, technology will not be a privilege or the preserve of the wealthy. Although the users will increase the inequality in society may not be overcome because the hackers will take the opportunity to gain power. The classes in society will also apply on the internet. For instance, web pages are categorized according to the links and the number of visits in a day. Hackers aim is to pose rivalry to the monopoly of Microsoft and will only pose challenges if they can develop more techniques.

In the 1960s, a person from western Germany attempted to hack on behalf of the Russians with an aim of fostering peace. The hacker was strongly promoting liberty and did not subscribe to the anarchy that prevailed.

Another reason for hacking is to send a message. Kevin Mitnick a Chinese human rights activist was dominant in the media discussion that the human rights messages send. Other hackers who were activists designed programs that made the computer request for a web page. Activists with the support of other organizations can make pages take long to load hence the webpage access is denied. Hackers can also slow down activities in the systems by overloading the email with a very large attachment. The resistance to hacking has encouraged the exchange of information. Communication becomes enhanced and becomes less costly.

Adversaries of hacking

Hacking can be autocratic and lead to concentration of power among those who gain much information. Hackers can gain control of the computer systems and create inequality. Kreider (1999, p. 21) reveals that a majority of hackers are male and may use obscenity. They lack moral values and are sexist as Adebayo et al (2006, p. 750) indicate. Cooper et al (2000, p. 530) support that hackers are among the masters of pornography. Women are shown as objects for sexual exploitation and they give help to women who venture into hacking.

Meso et al (2006, p. 209) indicate that the competition among the hackers is not favourable as they end up causing harm. Hackers are ranked by their abilities in hacking hence they strive to become superior by gaining experience which means that they continue hacking. Kreider (1999, p. 21) indicates that there are problems for those beginning to hack. Hacking can be managed, and the new recruits can be assimilated with less repulsion to make them more knowledgeable and to enable them to learn the hacker’s ethics.

Hacking sub-culture

There are those who pursue hacking until the law catches up with them. Others choose to do so for a few years then they chase other interests such as education. Those with the knowledge remain in certain circles. New people are not welcome and the techniques in hacking are hardly shared outside the circle. One of their challenges is to keep up with the changing technologies (Furnell 2002). The hackers have categories where the higher ranking are considered as the elite and demonstrate high intelligence. This status is not earned by the level of education or the age of the hacker (Emke2008).

Hackers have conflicts that may end up in the public. The hacker may become disorderly and interfere with the telephone or the computer systems with an aim of getting back at another with whom they have differences. Others may obtain credit cards numbers for free items or calls. The innovativeness of the hackers in the early days contributed to the development of the internet and the World Wide Web. Others introduce social vices (McKenzie 2000).

Language of the hacker

Hackers use language that is different from crackers and other inexperienced hackers. First, they are intelligent and conversant with the terminologies and abbreviations used in electronic technology. They also replace words with numerals. Moreover, alphabetic letters like the letter ‘s’ are replaced with ‘z’. Their language is also characterized by random capitalization, use of abbreviations, incorporating slang and use repeated characters. The language is subject to modification as the hackers are keen on the exposure of their language and changes may actually help them be aware of newcomers.

A majority of hackers are teenagers and may use vulgar language too. Wrong spellings and incorrect grammar are common. They hack for fun. On the contrary, the older hackers may have a different motive and may also use similar language. They hack to access games, movies and other web pages.

Media

The media has highlighted the hacking activities and gained a lot of information on hacking. Although the media calls both the hackers and the crackers hackers they are in a better position to explain the progress of hacking better than the courts as shown by Wang (2007, p. 221). The media has discouraged hacking and termed their activities as illegal. The media has also provided information on the consequences of hacking to both the hacker and the attacked systems (Littlewood 2003). They point at the most common methods used in hacking and enable the companies as well as individuals to make informed choices (Kreider 1999, p. 17).

Dickey (2010, p. 1) accuses the media of showing one side of hacking. The argument is that hacking is not entirely evil as the media portrays. This is because some hackers hack into programs to make the most out of the program. This is done in pursuit of making life better for the user of a program.

Measures to reduce hacking and Law on hacking

According to Pladna (2008, p. 15), hacking can only be reduced and not faced out completely due to the methods used in the crime as discussed above. E-mail gateways must be established so that they are scanned and those which may cause harm to be automatically rejected. Passwords or usernames must not be sent without the use of tokens because hackers can be able to crack and obtain the password.

The law enforcers must strengthen the justice system (Satola 2007). This is because hacking may have impacts on the social life of individuals whose private data has been exposed while the economy may also be affected negatively. Moreover preventing hackers from hacking is better than reacting to an attack from the hacker.

A trap for hackers can be set up. The programs that are being developed can be designed in a way that they are not easily hacked. A sophisticated system of encrypting may be necessary so that the infrastructure or the system is protected adequately. Besides, the organizations can choose to obtain a program that enables the system to recover lost data so that one can keep track of what is happening.

Another measure is to use original products or programs. They are likely to be free from viruses. Copied programs have less ability to initiate security measures (Satola 2007).

Education on hacking is important. The employees can be taught how to avoid situations that enable hackers to access the system. The filtering programs are important and can be used together with the firewall. Constantly keep posted the status of the security by updating the browser. Prior to installing a program, one may take note of the license and its agreements (Mann & Sutton 1999).

Hacking is on the increase, and it is necessary to safeguard the systems against insecurities. Security is becoming a challenge for many organizations due to the increase in hacking. The growth is synonymous with the increase in access to computers and the availability of the internet. The most targeted include banks, business organizations, education institutions, state agencies, communication organizations and the military among others. German (1993, p.262) also reveals that hackers are interested in financial documents and files with vital information. The information enables them to manipulate the financial cards and to gain access to the finances and credit card numbers.

Companies and computer must secure their systems from hacking since the consequences may be severe for the company as Ryding (1998, p. 57) notes. The company may be required to repay clients for loss of credit card numbers after failing to secure their systems.

A company must invest in the security of the computer system and network system as pointed out by Sliter (1998, p. 80). This is because the world technology is moving fast and requires the players to be constantly engaged in the research of what is new and protect their own systems. One must develop a culture where they investigate what is happening across the globe and invest in research.

In line with (Global Issues & Communications 2001, p. 1), hackers are a major security threat to businesses in the world across the globe. Some of the hackers belong to one country and perform crimes across the globe. There is a need for the states to unite and formulate laws that will deal with crime across the globe.

The art of hacking is dynamic just as technology keeps growing. Smith et al (2003, p. 1) argue that those involved in computer networking must form a culture of research where they keep track of what is happening. Bell (2002, p. 312) states that this is applicable in the financial systems where the financial institutions can conduct studies without limits on the state boundaries.

The networks or computer systems must also ensure that they create security for a target computer or system by ensuring that the firewall is hard to crack. Security must be guarded where laptops can have tracking devices so that they can be recovered. Smith et al (2003, p. 1) note that these efforts to foster security may be disabled by such vices as bribery and access of data in the remote area network.

A system can have passwords, biometrics as well as encryptions for security. The password can be changed from the default one to own invented password and username. Names must be avoided and other common words or numbers. These efforts to provide security may be hindered through coercion where those in possession are forced to give it out (Yar 2005).

Those caught must be charged. The use of destructive games and unlawful internet activities must be discouraged by the use of the law. If no actions are taken a culture of impunity will emerge. What is more, is that the other hackers will be encouraged since no action was taken. The hacking culture will continue and more systems will be attacked.

Institutions that have access to network systems can be controlled. Such institutions like internet providers must have an address that is unique to the specific service providers so that the hacker can be traced from the particular computer they are using. A public key can be given to the users as a registration requirement. The authorities must be careful to note those who are likely to forge registration or impersonate deceivers. The challenge with this measure is that the staff working within the system may become hackers. This measure will be effective for prevention against outside attackers (Thomas and Loader 2000).

Screening can be an effective measure according to Smith et al (2002). The use of passwords and usernames can be screened to note when a user logs in and when they log out. Levi (1998, p. 430) adds that the system can also be designed to log out after some time.

Surveillance is also necessary with the aim of noting the patterns of usage. The transactions can be analyzed to detect any abnormalities. In this case, neural networks must be considered. Smith et al (2003, p. 5) are reluctant to this measure because hackers cover their tracks by wiping out the computer system or using a virus or Trojan to disable the program that analyzes the patterns of use. However, the method has been found to work.

Surveillance may also be extended to the personal computers used in the offices; a suggestion propounded by Ratcliffe (2002). The hackers who may also be part of the employees may extend beyond working hours for unofficial duties or even use their computer at the time they are not supposed to be working like in the night. Besides, employees may also be part of the surveillance and report hackers. Repetto (2010, p. 170) emphasizes that the information technology employees should be at the forefront to report such since they are more knowledgeable on the field.

If a target system is attacked and shows increased chances of attacks, the system may be removed or modified. The attacks may be due to attacks within or cases of bribery as revealed by Grabosky et al (2001). In line with Chapman & Smith (2001), a new system that is different can be designed. Mativat & Tremblay (1997, p. 166) state that there is a need for rules that govern the use of the internet to be established.

Measures against hacking is a global priority on the security of its systems as discussed by Long et al (2009, p. 168). They argue that instead of every state coming up with individual regulatory measures, the globe could form a partnership in dealing with electronic crime given that hacking can occur across the globe.

Tonry & Farrington (1995, p 109) indicate that many organizations have lost their finances owing to hacking. Thus, financial loss that is resulting from hacking is classified as criminal activity. In accordance with Sherman et al (1998), businesses have come to a standstill and lost a lot of time due to damaged systems. Any system that is attacked cannot distinguish a hacker from a cracker since it is impossible to get their intention. Therefore, the hacker and the cracker are criminals and must be charged.

Hacking is illegal in the majority of states. The law enforcers believe that the hackers are professional operators and not teenagers in need of exploring to gain access to games as earlier suggested. For this reason, hackers are viewed as a threat to the growth of technology.

There are challenges in implementing laws on hacking as Kreider (1999, p. 16) notes. This is because the judges have insufficient knowledge of hacking. Crimes on hacking as he argues must be treated differently from the regular criminals since they may be of different value. Hackers who gain access to classified files may often be charged as trespassers. The distribution of the same file brings in confusion whether those who received it and those who send it again should be treated similarly to the hacker. Another concern is if the hacker who accesses the system and does not harm it or copy any material must be treated the same as the one who damages by deleting or sending some files.

Conclusion

Hackers access the network system without legal authority. There are hackers whose aim is to damage a system while others access without causing any damage. They hack by attacking a target computer or system and designing programs that will give them access or by cracking passwords. The measures taken must include firewalls and filter programs. Scanning of e-mails, documents and passwords can be adapted. Programs that analyse user behaviour and cameras can also be effective. Employees should report any hackers within the organization. Education on hacking can be given and the system must be updated regularly. Before installing a program, one must be careful and take note of the license agreement.

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