Good Gary Mckinnon As An Icon Of Cybercrime Case Study Example
In, 2002, Gary McKinnon, a Scottish business analyst and self-made hacker, perpetrated one of the greatest, or most infamous hacking incidents in the history of cybercrime. He targeted both NASA and the United States military forces, electronically burgling their computer systems and top secret files. What is perhaps most impressive about this crime is that Gary McKinnon acted alone. Using the hackername “Solo,” McKinnon managed to infiltrate 97 government computers, trying to access files on a UFO cover-up, or Free Energy Suppression. Unfortunately in doing so he created a much larger problem. While intruding on the United States Military District of Washington Network, he deleted crucial operating files from the system, crashing a network of 2,0000 computers for about 24 hours. McKinnon then re-accessed the database multiple times over a 13 month period in 2001 and 2002.
Formally, he is accused on downloading government files and viewing information that could have been useful to the enemy, among other Cybercrimes, but his most serious offences are actually related to deleting, rather than downloading, information. For example, he deleted the weapons long at the Eaerle Naval Weapons Station, which paralyzed 300 computers, effectually slowing the delivery of basic supplies to the entire United States Atlantic Fleet. While McKinnon has explained that he merely intended to unearth conspiracies on UFO activity and make public technologies that can become beneficial to the public users, it is likely that his real purpose was explained in a manifesto that he left for officials on at least one government computer, that said “ I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels ”(Kay, 2007). Regardless of his true goals, his 13-month hacking spree cost the United States government roughly $700,000 in damages, and led to his arrest in March, 2002. The United States work for over a decade to extradite McKinnon to the United States for trial. But ultimately, in October of 2012, the United Kingdom blocked his extradition, because they felt it had a “High risk of ending his life” making the decision to extradite “incompatible with his human rights (BBC, 2012).” In 2014, the High Court of Britain announced that it would not be pursuing any charges against McKinnon because it would be too difficult to bring the evidence against him into court, because it was all primarily collected in the United States.
Impact of Cybercrime
Intrusion, unauthorized access of networks, electronic identity theft, copying or deleting files from restricted computers, disfigurement of websites and financial fraud perpetrated through computer networks are all examples of cybercrime. Cyber criminals are individual conducting criminal activities using a computer, computer networks and other technical devices to access another computer illegally. These criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, routinely tapping into private, public and government properties, and their activities are causing an estimated $400 to $575 billion in damages to the worldwide economy each year . Cybercrimes, if successfully executed, result not only in financial losses, but also damage innovation, trade and effectiveness of the growth of the national economy .
Cyber criminals, commonly referred to as hackers, use their skills and knowledge in computer programming and technological background to break through the security systems on computers they wish to access. In some cases, like that of McKinnon, computer hacking, or the desire to hack, has been linkage to the mental health issues that ranges from addictive behavior to the inability to grasp social cues, compulsive manners, Asperger syndrome and narcissism. Sociologists also explain that hacking can also be triggered by something as simple as boredom, extreme curiosity, a thirst for politics, or a desire to be recognized .
In short, cybercrime gives the hacker unauthorized access, compromising the security of an individual or organizations information. For an individual, hacking events typically result in identity theft, which is the theft of personal information or financial details of an individual. Most cases of identity theft are initiated through social networks like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter and result in financial fraud or unauthorized transactions on an individual’s credit card .
Not all hackers, however, are motivated by the desire to steal an individual’s personal or financial information. Many focus on government entities instead, and have successfully cracked official computer networks using malicious application, software and techniques to access classified information. These activities impact the economy and have been a recurrent challenge for governments around the world.
Hackers also attack computer systems by introducing viruses. In one case, in the United States in 2011 a virus called the Code Red Virus attack computers from coast to coast. It cost an estimated $13.2 million to counter the attack and clean up all the effected computers . Virus types employed by hackers include worms, denial of service programs, spam emails and phishing attacks.
Unfortunately, the unceasing spread of cybercrime has had a major economic impact, not only because of the cost associated with management and cleanup of such attacks, but also in terms of economic growth and job availability. Cases of cyber espionage ultimately translate into unemployment. A large number of officials have lost their jobs as a direct and indirect result of the hacking activities. The total number is estimated to include 508,000 lost jobs in 2001 alone, almost equivalent to $100 billion in losses .
The Motivation of Gary McKinnon
The access that McKinnon was able to gain 10 years ago shook the area of information security. How was he able to gain 13 months of almost unlimited access to what should have been the most secure network in the world? From a computer systems security point of view, this event revealed the vulnerability of the implemented technology, forcing the government, and other organizations using a similar security structure, to rethink its implementation. As Mcquade cited in his theory of cybercrime, technologies come in the form of tools and technique and its usage is for countervailing. He also cited that technology, although it brings convenience and innovation, also leads to deviance and violation if inappropriate used. McKinnon is the perfect example of the phenomenon Mcquade describes. McQuade’s theory further explained that the introduction of new technologies will require the development of crime regulations and laws that raise public awareness and specifically address a new area of the law, cyber law. McKinnon’s case, demonstrated a need for government units to strengthen and clearly define their regulation and find ways to work together to bridge the gap in addressing cyber-criminal activities, especially when the crime is committed internationally .
In this regard, the effort to extradite McKinnon to the United States is important, regardless of the claimed medical condition. This decision will set-forth awareness globally that such misconduct is unacceptable and potentially brings risk to everyone. As a best practice, it is necessary that all organizations to implement a strict policy on information security, especially the mandatory changing of passwords and authentication procedure.
It is obvious that McKinnon’s curiosity lead to discovery of the lax procedure of the United States military network in terms of restricting their computer security. Employing stricter firewalls and keeping the software updated strengthens the platforms that computers run on.
Campbell, Q., & Kennedy, D. (2009). Computer Security Handbook. New York: John Wileys & Sons.
Center for Strategic and International Studies. (2013). The Economic Impact of Cybercrime and Cyber Espionage. California: McAffee.
Center for Strategic and International Studies. (2014). Net Losses: Estimating the Global Cost of Cybercrime. California: McAffee.
Nakashima, E., & Peterson, A. (2014, June 9). Cybercrime and espionage costs. Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/report-cybercrime-and-espionage-costs-445-billion-annually/2014/06/08/8995291c-ecce-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html
Png, I., & Wang, C. (2007). The Deterrent Effect of Enforcement Against Computer Hackers. Singapore: National University of Singapore.
Tonry, M. (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Crime and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Trowbridge, A. (2014, July 1). Identityt theft rises, consumers rage. Retrieved from CBSnews: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/identity-theft-rises-consumers-rage/
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