Computer Crime Research Center


Criminalization of socially dangerous actions in high tech field

Date: February 13, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Victor Sabadash

At present time world community is described by impetuous technical progress and new IT development. Development of data processing methods has lead to implementation of computers in all branches of national economy and other fields of social life. Computer networks, email and other similar communication methods are becoming means of policy: email addresses of President Administration are well-known and widely used. Regional administration and local state authorities are connected to the Internet. The world economy and military authorities also cannot function without computers. Now we can speak about switch of the developed countries to new postindustrial stage of their evolution – information society: a significant part of people all over the world have access to global computer networks, great number of people in developed industrial countries may own and use tens (hundreds) of computers. Computers are built in domestic technics, phones, TV-sets, they are placed in offices, cars. Thus computerization affects all sides of social life: from air and land traffic control to national defense tasks solution.

Global computerization, impetuous IT sphere development, computer age of world community bring new ways and opportunities for development and perfection of criminal world along with positive trends. It is criminalizing social legal relationship in this sphere. Computer crimes become more and more frequent. IT sphere allows to enhance not only traditional kinds of crimes and also such kinds as: theft, swindle, “money launder”, counterfeit of documents (including securities and banknotes) and also creates absolutely new kinds of crimes as: using of computer information without right, computer fraud, computer forgery, etc. Such concepts like “computer information”, “computer crimes”, “cyber terrorism”, “cyber criminality”, “information weapon” are coming in life.

Issue of further criminalization of social relationship in IT field is tightly bound to problems of computer information safety from criminal infringement and computer crimes investigation.

It is necessary to note that problems of criminalization of social legal relationship in high tech field and also issues on computer crimes investigation were analyzed in works of our Ukrainian scientists: N. Akhtyrskaya, P. Bilenchuck, V. Vekhov, V. Gavlovskiy, V. Golubev, M. Gutsaliuck, V. Krylov, G. Matusovskiy. However the rush growth in high tech field, new and new appearing methods of committing computer crimes do not allow to stop half-way and demand more and more deep research.

The question of investigating computer crimes long ago became a problem of transnational character for all world community. High tech crimes are committed in computer networks with help of perfect computer facilities, they do not have any boundaries as they are committed in so-called “cyberspace”. Network attacks, swindle with plastic cards, money thefts from bank accounts, corporate espionage and child pornography distribution are only some of all crimes committed in the Internet. Information stored and transferred via computer networks is subject of crimes that bring significant profits. No one knows the whole scope of computer criminality, though according to informal data their profits come up to billions of dollars [1].

There is a growth in criminal activities in high tech sphere outlined recently in Ukraine. On purpose to counteract computer crime, the Ministry of Internal Affairs created High Tech and Intellectual Property units attached to the Economic Crime Department. One of the main tasks of newly created units is to fight crimes in field of computer information, electronic payments and telecommunications. So 7 crimes have been revealed for 4 months of 2001 year, 25 in 2002, 51 crime for 6 months of 2003. According to the Economic Crime Department, computer and Internet technologies were used approximately in 150 crimes of economic direction. 24 criminal cases on 37 crimes committed with use of Internet technologies were brought before court. Besides, some computer crimes in banks may be considered as crimes in financial sphere, so the real number of computer crimes is much higher. Here are some groups of crimes that are widespread in Ukraine:

- violations with id (login-passwords, PIN-codes);

- restricted information infringements with use of remote access technologies;

- crimes with of computer accounting systems by access via network technologies, e.g. use of “Client-Bank” systems without right or for operating with money funds of criminal groups [2].

Information and information relationship became a new subject of criminal offence. Thus protection of such legal relations appeared relatively recently, only in the end of 1970-s. First special laws were adopted at federal level in Sweden in 1973 and in USA in 1976. New federal “computer” laws have been in force in USA since 1984, Denmark – 1985, Portugal – 1982, Germany – 1986. Constant perfection of national laws concerning fighting computer crime in our and other countries is being conducted.

In particular in Ukraine, a united policy is realized at the state level on purpose of national interests security maintenance from threats in information sphere; a balance of need for free information exchange and admissible restrictions for its distribution is established; the legislation of Ukraine in field of information security is being improved; activity of state authorities on safety in information environment is being coordinated; state information resources at defense enterprises are being protected; native telecommunication and information means are being developed; information structure of IT development is being improved; means of search, collecting, storage, processing and the analysis of information are being unified on purpose of entering global information infrastructure. [3] Criminal legal theory, having recognized information as a subject of theft, appropriation, extortion and other criminal activities, has certified status of information as the object of property right, as it had never been before. However issues of criminalization demand further research and, perhaps, decriminalization of certain actions in high tech field. As international experience shows, a set of actions that are referred to computer crimes category are of rather different character than those that are determined in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Section 16 in the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for criminal liability for committing crimes in sphere of computers, computer systems and networks operation. The given section includes three Articles:

Article 361 “Illegal interference with operation of computers, systems and networks”, that is an illegal interference with operation of automated computers, systems or networks resulted in distortion or erasing of computer information or destroying its carriers, and also to spreading of computer viruses by using software and hardware designed for illegal penetration into these machines, systems or networks and capable of distortion or erasing computer information or destroying its carriers”;

Article 362 “Theft, misappropriation, extortion of computer information or its capture by swindling or abusing official position”;

Article 363 “Violation of automated electronic computer operating rules”: violation of operating rules of automated computers, systems or networks on the part of a person responsible for their operation, if it has entailed theft, distortion or erasing of computer information, security means, or illegal copying of computer information, or essential infringement of such facilities, systems or networks operation.

The analysis of all these articles allows to note that further criminalization of socially dangerous actions in high tech field is necessary. On one hand it can be more concrete definition of components of computer crimes in the Criminal Code of Ukraine, on the other - introducing new components of computer crimes in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

In this connection we can apply for international experience. Some foreign criminalists, as usual, divide “computer crimes” into two main groups. First include crimes where the objects are information stored in computers, corresponding software and hardware. Second group covers different types of fraud committed with help of computers [3].

Furthermore on purpose of national laws unification, a list of criminal offences was adopted at the Ministers Committee of European Union meeting on September 13, 1989. This list of offences is recommended for EU countries for developing unified strategy of legislation related to computer crimes elaborating. It consists of so-called Minimum and Optional lists of crimes [4].

“Minimum list of offences”:

1. Computer fraud. The input, alteration, erasure or suppression of computer data or computer programs, or other interference with the course of data processing that influences the result of data processing, thereby causing economic or possessory loss of property of another person with the intent of procuring an unlawful economic gain for himself or for another person;

2. Computer forgery. The input, alteration erasure or suppression of computer data or computer programs, or other interference with the course of data processing in a manner...

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