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Computer Crime

January 6, 1978

Report Outline
Scope of New-Style Crime
Potential for Computer Misuse
Criminal Justice and Technology
Special Focus

Scope of New-Style Crime

Growing Use and Misuse of Computers

The annals of crime are recording a new and growing type of criminal activity: crimes involving computers. Fraud, embezzlement, blackmail and other crimes committed by the manipulation or misuse of computers cost Americans more than $100-million a year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Today business and government are more vulnerable to white-collar crime through use of computers than they were ever before or probably ever will be in the future,” according to Donn B. Parker, senior management systems consultant at SRI International (formerly Stanford Research Institute) in Menlo Park, Calif. Parker, an expert on computer fraud, said a basic reason for this vulnerability is “the lack of progress in recognizing the threat and taking protective action in a period of rapid transition from manual, paper-based business activities” to fully computerized systems.

There are other reasons why computer-related crime is on the increase. For one thing, the number of computers and persons who work with them is rising steadily. International Data Corp., a publishing and market research consulting firm with headquarters in Waltham, Mass., reported that 86,314 general-purpose computers were installed in American businesses as of Jan. 1, 1977—the latest date for which figures are available. The company also reported that 176,315 minicomputers—small, relatively inexpensive units—are in use. In addition, the U.S. government uses some 10,000 computers.

Computers touch the daily lives of nearly all Americans. They are used in nearly all business and governmental functions that are particularly susceptible to monetary theft. They are used by banks, public utilities, consumer credit companies and by financial offices in large corporations and in state, local and federal governments. Along with this increasing use of computers is a parallel rise in the number of persons who work with the machines—operators, programers and technicians. SRI International estimated that 2,230,000 Americans worked directly with computers in 1975. The figure is believed to be substantially higher today.

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BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Computers and the Internet
Crime and Law Enforcement
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