Defined broadly, the term "computer crime" could reasonably include a
wide variety of criminal offenses, activities, or issues. The potential
scope is even larger when using the frequent companion or substitute term
"computer-related crime." Given the pervasiveness of computers in everyday
life, even in the lives of those who have never operated a computer, there
is almost always some nontrivial nexus between crime and computers.
By the FBI's definition, cyberterrorism is well beyond the scope of
this paper. With increasing frequency this term is being used by the mass
media. Absent any evidence of activity, we'll leave it in the "eye of the
beholder" to determine whether cyberterrorism is currently being deterred,
is a phantom menace…or somewhere in between.
A key distinction between electronic civil disobedience and politicized
hacking is anonymity. The motive for remaining secret is simple: the
majority of politically motivated hacks are clearly illegal. Most
institutions recognize that breaking into an opponent's computer and
adding, changing or deleting (HTML) code, even if it is juvenile graffiti,
violates some other’s rights. Attitudes and opinions begin to diverge
markedly around this point however. One person’s activist is another’s
"A lot of groups are claiming that they're hacking into sites for a
higher moral purpose, but they're hiding beyond anonymity or pseudonymity.
Taking responsibility is not something we see happening."
At the heart of this discussion is the question of motive. Opinions
differ just as much within the hacker community as outside over the
efficacy of certain actions. The spate of (zombie) DDoS attacks against
prominent e-commerce sites that occurred in February 2000 sparked a debate
between two prominent hacker collectives. The Electrohippies Collective
claims the Internet as a public space liable to be used by groups and
individuals as a means of protest. As activists, they admit no practical
difference between how cyberspace and the street are used by society.
Recent actions on the Internet against e-commerce sites represent a
fundamental disagreement about the purposes of the Internet, and the
increasing emphasis on the use of the ‘Net as a vehicle for profitable
trade rather than of knowledge and discussion.
The cDc, says, the targeted sites were selected for their name
recognition and prestige value, not for their commercial attributes or
You may make yourself feel good and get a lot of attention, but when
you crack a Web site, you are violating another person's rights. …what does
that mean? CRIME!