Explosive growth in the computer industry over the last decade has made new technologies cheaper and simpler for the average person to own. As result, computers play an intricate part in our daily lives. The areas in which computers affect life are infinite, ranging from entertainment to finances. If anything were to happen to these precious devices, the world would be chaotic. Computer hacking is a dangerous crime that could total chaos for the entire world.
Some hackers act on revenge or just impersonal mischievousness. But whatever their motives, their deeds can be destructive to a person’s computer. An attack by a hacker not only affects the victim, but others as well. One case involving a notorious hacker named Kevin Mitnick did just that. Mitnick is a very intelligent man. He is 31 and pending trial for computer fraud. When he was a teenager, he used his knowledge of computers to break into the North American Defense Command computer. Had he not been stopped, he could have caused some real national defense problems for the United States (Sussman 66).
Other “small time” hackers affect people just as much by stealing or giving away copyrighted software, which causes the prices of software to increase, thus increasing the price the public must pay for the programs. Companies reason that if they have a program that can be copied onto a disc then they will lose a certain amount of their profit. People will copy it and give to friends or pass it around on the Internet. To compensate, they will raise the price of disc programs. CD Rom programs cost more to make but are about the same price as disc games. Companies don’t loose money on them because it is difficult to copy a CD Rom and impossible to transmit over the Internet (Facts on File #28599 1).
Hackers have hit one company in particular, American On-line, hard. The feud started when a disgruntled ex-employee used his inside experience to help fellow hackers disrupt services offered by AOL (Alan 37). His advice became popular and he spawned a program called AOHell. This program, in turn,
created many copycats. They all portray their creators as gangsters, and one of the creator’s names is “Da Chronic.” Many also feature short clips of rap music (Cook 36). These programs make it easy for people with a little hacker knowledge to disrupt AOL. These activities include gaining access to free accounts, gaining access to other people’s credit card numbers, and destroying chat rooms. The loopholes for hackers and freeloaders may be closing, however. America On-line is reluctant to discuss specifics of its counterattack for fear of giving miscreants warning. However, many software trading rooms are being shut down almost as soon as they are formed. Others are often visited by ‘narks’ posing as traders. New accounts started with phony credit cards are being cut off more promptly, and other card-verification schemes are in place. AOL has now developed the ability to resurrect a screen name that had been deleted by the hackers, and is rumored to have call-tracing technologies in the works (Alan 37).
Hacking is not just a problem in America. All across the world hackers plague anyone they can, and they’re getting better at it. In Europe they’re known as “Phreakers” (technologically sophisticated young computer hackers). These self-proclaimed Phreakers have made their presence felt all the way up the political ladder. They managed to steal personal expense accounts of the European Commission President Jacques. They revealed some embarrassing overspending. They said it was done to protect the public from wasting their tax money. The European judicial system sentenced them to six months in prison (PC Weekly 12).
This punishment might seem harsh, but not to Bill Clinton. He has appointed a task force to try to enforce laws on the Internet. The new laws would try to strengthen copyright laws by monitoring information being transferred and if a violation occurred, a $5,000 fine would be implemented (Facts On File #28599 1). Clinton thinks this will protect businesses as well as consumers by keeping copyrighted material at a reasonable price. The only exception would be that libraries would have the right to copy “for purposes of preservation” (Phelps 75).
Some people view hackers as the “Robin Hoods” of the Internet. They wrestle with the heavyweight businesses to try to gain leverage for individuals. But in doing so they make businesses increase prices to pay for security. It is an ongoing cycle. Many anti-hacking groups think they are gaining some ground on hackers by making more sophisticated software. But like a virus that becomes immune too quickly, the hackers find another way. The loopholes of the hacker are infinite. Just as one cannot leave their shadow behind on a sunny day, the hacker will be around as long as there is something to hack.