Computer Crime Research Center


A Latency of Computer Crimes

Date: April 05, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Victor Sabadash

Computer technologies and international computer systems created a new environment. This environment favours crimes of national and transnational levels. Criminal formations and specialists in illegal business use the newest technologies to the full extent for money laundering, distributing of false information, unauthorized access to information systems and other violations. Revenues from these crimes rank third after incomes from drugs and arms trade [1]. A threat of computer crime also represents a significant support of the organized criminality for performing violent crimes, act of terrorism in particular [2].

Besides, computer crimes are often committed quietly, without any fuss. A mechanism and modus operandi of computer crimes are typical and latent. So, according to FBI, between 85% and 97% crimes are not even revealed [3]. Some other experts estimate the latency of computer crimes to reach 80% in the USA, up to 85% in the UK, 75% in Germany, more than 90% in Russia [4]. Less than 1% of crimes reach the court in the West, where the statistics on computer crimes is more reliable and large. At that, according to specialists’ statements the inspection allows to reveal not more than 10% of e-thefts [5].

The article is topical because along with the obvious threat, which is posed by computer crimes for international community and certain success of law enforcement in fighting it, the level of latency of these crimes remains high.

The latency of crimes is a feature that displays the existing situation in Ukraine, when a definite part of crimes is not examined. All over the world, a real number of all committed crimes is greater than a number of registered crimes. This information not always represents the facts. Latent (hidden) crimes are often beyond statistic analysis. This is so-called “dark number” an unsolved files of crimes. These latent crimes may cause serious, far-reaching negative consequences. It creates a specific psychological background of impunity for socially dangerous acts in a definite environment. It pushes the criminals to commit more new (as a rule more dangerous) crimes. Also it favors forming of stable criminal organizations, undermines the principle of penalty's irreversibility, lowers general preventive sense of criminal law, worsens a moral climate and breaks law and order in the country.

The goal of this article is to study issues of computer crimes latency, to define the main reasons and conditions of these crimes and to find the main ways to lower it in Ukraine.

It is necessary to emphasize that problems of computer crimes latency were considered by N. Akhtyrskaya, P. Bilenchuck, V. Gavlovskiy, M. Gutsaliuck, V. Tsymbaluck, G. Matusovskiy and some other authors. However, impetuous development of high technologies and appearance of newest ways of committing computer-facilitated crimes doesn’t allow to stop half-way and it demands further investigation of this problem.

Experts mark out four kinds in the structure of latent crimes:

The first kind covers crimes when law enforcement, management of enterprises, institutions or authorities, individuals do not know the fact of its commitment. Only a criminal and his/her accomplices know about the crime. They are interested in concealing it. Such socially dangerous acts, as a rule, are deliberate and well-planned, well disguised. Such latency is known as natural.

The second kind makes up a huge dimension of crimes that might be known to officials (managers of the corresponding departments and authorities, individuals) but neither informs corresponding authorities about these crimes. Motives of such activities are as following: an intention to conceal the crime because if revealed it would cause damage to prestige of the institution (organization) or its management, might lead to organizational conclusions (removals from office) or responsibility for criminal negligence without signs of complicity in the concealed crime; an indifference to civil obligations to participate in the fight against criminality; a hope to get material remuneration for concealing information on the committed crime, etc. This kind is called artificial.

The third kind of the latent crimes is sometimes determined as “limited cases”. It is a group of crimes where information on them is known to law enforcement, but the officer, by mistake, or intention or having not enough professional skills, gave the wrong estimation to the action, having not seen signs of a crime in it. In this view it was not considered to be a crime.

The last kind of the latent crimes is the crimes that became known to law enforcement, but their representative didn’t register these crimes by some reason.

Computer criminality may be represented in all four reflections.

Natural latent crimes. A victim doesn’t know that a criminal violation is committed against him. It concerns illegal access to computer information with purpose to obtain opportunities to learn information and perform operations with someone else's information stored in a computer or machine mediums, i.e. actions directed to violate confidentiality of information. Illegal access to computer information may involve: theft, copying, substitution of machine mediums; copying files with initial data and output documents; using visual, optical and acoustic observation systems; reading and decoding of various electromagnetic emanations and stray radiation in computers and support systems; storing of information; photographing information being processed; making copies of input, output documents and printings, etc. In such cases, victims do not even guess about criminal activities committed against them and aimed to violate confidentiality of information, because computer information doesn’t disappear as distinct from the printed information. As a result, a criminal only knows about this criminal encroachment and this part of crimes remains latent.

We may refer computer violations to this category of latent crimes, when victim learns about it only after a while. This also concerns, for example, thefts committed using forged payment cards. A long time may pass between the moment of using the forged card and the moment of revealing this fact. It’s due to the fact that most money thefts using payment cards are established when owners discover suspicious movement on their accounts.

January 2, 2002, the Prosecutor Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine, initiated a proceeding against the manager C. of the company “B.” that on September 17, 2001, in cahoots with citizen P., having used forged payment card MasterCard, stole a fax-machine ($200) from one of computer stores in Simferopol, a capital of Crimea. During investigation, police detained citizen K. for allegedly using forged card of MasterCard payment system in stealing money at sum of $200 in “International Commercial Bank”, Simferopol. After all these crimes committed in January 2001, victims appealed to the court against writing off the amounts from their accounts. Criminal units of the Department of the Internal Affairs of Ukraine in Crimea needed about half a year to enter into this case. Fraudsters might have been using the forged card during this period.

Firstly, a reason of artificial latent criminality is an unwillingness of a victim (enterprise, institutions, organizations or individuals) to tip off the police about criminal violations in their computer systems. Causes of these actions may be different. Some times top managers are afraid of loosing their authority in business circles (loss of clients as a result), of disclosing their own security system in the court, of revealing their own illegal activity. According to FBI, only 17% of interrogated American companies were ready to inform law enforcement about incidents of unauthorized intrusion in their computer systems [7].

The artificial latency of computer crimes is so high because many companies resolve this conflict on their own, as losses from investigation might be higher (a seizure of file server for examination may lead to suspension of operation from 1 to 2 months, that is inadmissible to any company). Among other causes we may name an absence of victim’s confidence that criminals will be punished, lost money will be returned, etc. Among these reasons, we can also mention a low level of legal awareness of citizens, lack of knowledge of human rights and unwillingness to press for protection of their rights and legitimate interests by legal methods.

“Limited cases” also may happen in Ukraine because the problem of latent crimes is tied to objective and subjective capabilities of law enforcement. Not considered government policy directed to cut down staff of law enforcement bodies, their re-orientation to the new displays of criminality, low level of material and financial support lead to outflow of skilled personnel. Law enforcement cannot provide appropriate response to the constantly increasing volume of operative information on computer crimes that is to be processed to the full. The more resources are limited, the greater volume of notifications about crimes law enforcement is forced to reject, making them latent. Researches in different countries show that 2-3% growth of crimes will cause their revelation decreased by 1%. This situation, in its turn, increases cases when the criminal escapes criminal liability. This problem should be considered during assessment of law enforcement’s activity.

This kind of latent crime covers also imperfection of statistical recording. So, computer crimes in banking may be...

Add comment  Email to a Friend

Discussion is closed - view comments archieve
2005-09-02 03:30:57 - Very nice blog. Gergana
2004-04-28 20:38:01 - That's cool Me
Total 2 comments
Copyright © 2001-2013 Computer Crime Research Center
CCRC logo