Computer Crime

U.S. Government and private-sector computer networks present an increasingly attractive target for illicit activities. Computer intruders can move freely without reference to state or national borders and can perform their tasks without gaining physical access to the system under attack. These factors make it more difficult to detect the theft of information and the origin of the intruder. Aside from stealing information, a computer intruder can also introduce a "virus" into a competitor's computer system to sabotage its operations.

Hacking U.S. Government Computers from Overseas describes four cases of foreign hackers, operating from overseas, who made significant intrusions into U.S. military and other government computer systems.  

According to a study conducted by the Computer Security Institute (CSI), a San Francisco-based association of information security professionals, computer crimes are soaring, and companies should be on the alert for security breaches. The 1997 Computer Crime and Security Survey was conducted by CSI in cooperation with the FBI's International Computer Crime Squad in San Francisco. Both CSI and the FBI stated that the results of this survey will be used to better understand the threat of computer crime and provide law enforcement with some basic information with which to address the problem more effectively.

According to the survey, about 75 percent of the 563 responding corporations, government agencies, financial institutions and universities surveyed by CSI reported financial losses in the past 12 months. Last year financial losses from financial fraud, computer viruses, sabotage, and theft of proprietary information and laptops were up 7 percent and topped $100 million. Reflecting the increased competition in the global marketplace, over 50 percent of the respondents cited foreign competitors as a likely source of attack and 22 percent cited foreign governments as a likely source of attack.

The survey also showed that only 17 percent of the respondents reported the crimes to law enforcement authorities. There appears to be reluctance on the part of the private sector to report allegations of computer and economic crime to law enforcement authorities. A large number of these crimes go unreported because of a company's fear of undermining the confidence of their shareholders, negative publicity, and further exposure of trade secret information during prosecution.

Related Topics: Computer Vulnerabilities, The Insider Threat to Information Systems.

Quoted from Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, June 1997, National Counterintelligence Center.