Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Friday, February 6, 2009

21st Century Crime

Innovation unfortunately brings opportunities for crime. Innovative technologies will transform the future of crime and is likely to occur on two levels: (a) the continuation of traditional, age-old physical crime; and (b) the new form of electronic crime.

The types of household property that will increasingly be targeted by physical crimes are high-value, high-tech electronic and computer products. In the future, traditional physical crime will be counterbalanced, and perhaps surpassed, in scope and social impact by the theft from consumers and businesses of intangible property, in particular electronic services, knowledge, and even identities. These types of thefts will increasingly be committed via computer-based telecommunications vehicles. It is the theft of intangible products and services, through traditional physical means, and more significantly, by way of computer-aided vehicles, that represents the most dramatic change in the complexion of property crime of the future.

Whole new information markets are being opened up as playing fields for computer criminals. Much of the Internet economy revolves around advertising. And using databases of personal information targets much of this advertising. This information is extremely valuable, and could be stolen, and a black market of information created.

Many Pakistanis in urban cities now use ATM cards and credit cards for a large percentage of their purchasing. As we move further from a paper-money society, to a purely electronic economy, new types of crime will emerge. What types exactly will depend on what new forms of security tomorrow's criminals will need to break. Will people be synthesizing voice authorizations? Or even learning to imitate a victim's typing style? All we can be sure of, is that criminals of tomorrow, like those of last century and those of today, will keep on innovating.

Meanwhile, other possible malicious uses of computers have become available. One of the most worrying is the likelihood of terrorists moving online, and engaging in what is called cyber terrorism. The methods of producing terror, destruction, mayhem, and fear will be much more destructive online than conventional methods in the real world.

The terrorists will remotely access the processing control systems of a cereal manufacturer, for example, change the levels of iron supplement, and sicken and kill the children of a nation enjoying their food. They will be able to perform similar remote alterations at a processor of infant formula. The terrorist does not have to be at the factory to execute these acts. He will be able to place a number of computerized bombs around a city, all simultaneously transmitting unique numeric patterns, each bomb receiving each other's pattern. The future terrorist will not have to be strapped to any of these bombs; no suicidal bombings; the encrypted patterns cannot be predicted and matched through alternate transmission; and the number of bombs prevents disarming them all simultaneously. The bombs will detonate.

A cyber terrorist will disrupt the banks, the international financial transactions, and the stock exchanges. Unlikely would be immediate arrest. The terrorist, the perpetrator is sitting in another continent while a nation's economic systems grind to a halt. Destabilization will be achieved.

Advanced telecommunications technology will allow offenders to reach a greater number of victims. There are also fears that the ongoing organization, sophistication, and globalization of crime may pose a greater threat to financial markets, economic stability, and even the national security of target countries.

An important predictor of the types of products and services that will be targeted for theft is the extent to which a product is desired. Products attractive to both consumers and criminals are sometimes called hot products. The characteristics of goods will make them highly vulnerable to theft. These are summarized in the acronym CRAVED (implying products which are Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable). Based on this threat assessment, some examples of hot products that may be targeted by offenders in the future include portable digital virtual disk (DVD) players, the wearable personal computer, automobile digital stereo systems, laptop computers, and handheld personal computers.

The Internet will provide computer-literate offenders with new opportunities to commit crimes directly related to networked systems. E-mail abuse, viruses, and hacking are expected to grow in prominence in the future. Companies are likely to face Internet attack from both within (by employees) as well as externally (by hackers). The facilities will be vulnerable to electronic vandalism, and theft and the potential for loss of or damage to such data can be immense.

There is a growing fear that well-organized criminals will launder their ill-gotten gains through e-commerce transactions, sending electronic cash to cyber-accounts located all over the world. With vast wealth at their disposal, criminal organizations will be able to buy almost any kind of technological resource or expertise.

Copyright fraud is expected to greatly increase in the future. In particular, the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted materials from the Internet, such as music, movies, and games, etc., will be an area of immense growth. This is accompanied by more traditional forms of piracy, such as illegal copying of software, videos, and computer games. Traditional and Internet-based forms of product piracy are problematic because both are so widespread, hard to detect, and difficult to police.

Technology offers us a chance to beat crime - but it will take innovation, understanding and education. It is today's research and development that will produce the crime-resistant products of the future. We must take every opportunity we can to use science and technology to reduce crime and improve the quality of our lives.

The weakest link in crime control is the lack of education in law enforcement relating to computer-technology crimes. The law enforcement community in Pakistan has not yet devoted itself even to start thinking about technological-aided crimes.

Are Pakistan’s police and other criminal organizations prepared for sophisticated use of new technologies for countering more sophisticated crime of the future that heavily involves computer-related crimes, especially in crimes against modern times? Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation