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The Information Age and Cyber Crimes

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The Information Age and Cyber Crimes essay
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The introduction of the internet has brought us into a whole new era which is the Information Age. Information Age is also known as Computer Age or Digital Age. Digital Age is a period in which the human history shift from traditional industry to an economy based on information technology. Undeniably, the Internet has brought benefits to us in the field of business, science, education and others. But, Internet is just like any other invention of human is a double edged sword. Internet allows us to obtain information with just a single tap and share data almost instantaneously but it also open the door wide for crimes. Internet has created several new forms of crimes and made old crimes easier to commit. The examples of cyber crimes are cyber-stalking, identity theft, child pornography, copyright violations, hacking, fraud and scams.

The growth in information has given rise to cyber crimes and caused a huge loss. Due to impact of digitization on financial, healthcare, small and medium sized enterprises and other industries, data breaches have gained more attention Even though advanced countermeasures and consumers awareness are applied, cyber crimes continues to climb. This is mainly because the criminals finds smarter ways to install disruptive viruses, steal intellectual property, commit identity theft, access to financial information and shut down the corporation computer systems. In year 2016, we have witnessed the largest data breach till date in United State history which is amounted to 1093 million with close to 36.6 million records exposed as online platform Yahoo revealed that hackers stole user data and information related to at least 500 million accounts back in 2014.

Department of Justice has classified cyber crime into three types. First of all, there are criminal who target the computer. These crimes could be theft of data, hardware theft or plantation of virus. Computers are used as a weapon to commit crime. Criminals use the computers to commit many traditional crimes and get away with it because of its unique nature that transcends national borders and the anonymity. Besides these, computer also used as legal accessories for storing incriminating information. Computer related crime involves both software and hardware. In year 2003, a survey was conducted by Container Security Initiative (CSI) with the participation of San Francisco Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Intrusion Squad. 530 respondents who have participated in the survey are made up of United State corporations, government agencies, financial institutions and 56% of them reported unauthorized use of their computer systems. A major security service, Symantec estimates that direct crimes has caused companies to lose $114billion annually while the cost of recovery from cyber crimes is $274billion.[3] Cyber crime costs have surpassed the expenses caused by the sales of drug in the black market. It is an unavoidable risk that all the computer and technology users have to face. This is because brilliant computer skills cannot longer characterize computer criminals since children can also download the hacking tools online and use them easily.

The issue arose is whether there is laws which can deal with computer related crimes? Arguably, the United States privacy system is the oldest and most effective in the world. The United States privacy system relies more on post hoc government enforcement and private litigation. The government of United States thinks that the security of computer systems is important for two reasons. The first reason is that the increased role of Information Technology and the growth of E-commerce sector have made cyber security an essential component of the economy. The next reason is that the cyber security is vital to the operation of safety critical systems and the protection of infrastructure systems. Critical infrastructure is defined in Section 5195C of United States Code as systems and assets whether physical or virtual so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems of assets would lead to a depilating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety.

The three main United States federal government cyber security regulations are the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPPA), the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the 2002 Homeland Security Act which included the Federal Information Security Management Act(FISMA). These regulations mandate that healthcare organization, federal agencies and financial institutions should protect their systems and information. But, these three regulations are not foolproof in securing the systems and information as they do not specify what cyber security methods must be implemented and only require a reasonable level of security. As an example, FISMA which applies to every government agency only requires the development and implementation of mandatory policies, standards, principles and guidelines on information security. However, these regulations do not address numerous computer related industries such as Internet Service Provider and software companies. Furthermore, the language of the three main regulations are too vague and it leaves much room for the interpretation. Bruce Schneier who is the founder of Cupertino’s Counterpane Internet Security states that a company will not make sufficient investments in cyber security unless government forces him to do so.

The effort to strengthen the cyber security laws has never been stopped. Recently, the federal government is introducing several new cyber security laws and amending the existing cyber security laws for a better security ecosystem. Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) was introduced in the United States Senate on July 10, 2014 and passed in the Senate on October 27, 2015. Its objective is to improve cyber security in the United States through enhanced sharing of information about cyber security threats and for other purposes. The law allows the sharing of Internet traffic information between the United States government and technology and manufacturing companies. National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to allow the Department of Security’s national cyber security and communications integration center to include tribal governments, information sharing and private entities among its non-federal representatives. The purpose of cyber security regulation is to force companies and organizations to protect their systems and information from cyber-attacks such as viruses, phishing, denial of service attacks, unauthorized access and control system attacks.

Other than federal government, attempts have been made by the state governments to improve cyber security by increasing public visibility of firms with weak security. California passed the Notice of Security Breach Act in year 2003. By this, it requires any company that maintains personal information of citizens of California and has a security breach must disclose the details of the event. The examples for personal information are name, social security number, credit card number, driver’s license number or financial information. There are several other states which have followed California and passed the similar security breach notification regulations. While giving the freedom to the firms on how to secure their systems, these security breach notification regulations also punish the firms for their cyber security failures. In fact, this regulation creates an incentive to the companies which voluntarily invest in cyber security. This could prevent the companies from suffering potential loss due to a successful cyber attack. In year 2004, the California State Legislature passed California Assembly Bill 1950 which applies to business that own or maintain personal information for California residents.[5] This regulation can be said as an improvement on the federal standard because it expands the number of firms required to maintain an acceptable standard of cyber security. It dictates that the businesses have to maintain a reasonable level of security and these required security practices extend to business partners. Besides this, the New York Cyber Security regulation has been effective since March 1, 2017. This regulation is designed to protect customer information as well as the information technology systems of regulated entities. This regulation requires each company to access its specific risk profile and design a program that addresses its risks in a robust fashion.

In conclusion, the United State government has been putting effort to introduce a stricter laws to equip organizations to secure the data from the latest cyber threats. However, Bruce Schneier has rightly said that successful cyber attacks on the government systems still occur despite of the efforts putting into by the government. This applies to private sector as well. Lately, the cyber criminals have sought to exploit technological vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive electronic data. These criminals can cause a huge financial losses for Department of Financial Service regulated entities as well as the consumers whose private information may be revealed or stolen for illicit purposes. It would be better for the organizations to be proactive about the security of their apps and data as the cyber criminals are always on the prowl and are becoming sophisticated in their approach to attack. Therefore, the companies should keep a regular check on their systems to identify any vulnerabilities and address the loopholes immediately.

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