4. Crime

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Crime - an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority.

The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law

With the assistance of technology, there are many new ways to commit crimes. However, there are also new ways to detect and prevent crime, as well. We look at both sides - good and evil.

Learning outcomes

  • understand issues associated with computer crime
  • find web resources appropriate to the topic
  • facilitate student discussion
  • learn to work collaboratively online


  • hacking, virus, identity theft, fraud, scams, civil liberties, law enforcement, public wrong, punishment, prevention

Study notes

  • What are some new forms of criminal behavior that did not exist before the internet? What crimes are easier with the aid of computers and technology?
  • Worms and virus - have you been attacked or infected? What was the "cost" to you in time, effort or money? Should the creators be punished for spreading these? What is suitable punishment?
  • Is any hacking harmless?
  • Should the age of the hacker be taken into consideration when judging these crimes? Why or why not?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for the security of computer assets? To what extent can the owner expect that others will abide the laws and not harm the information?
  • Does hacking improve security?
  • Have you received email or visited sites that you thought were engaged in fraud or some criminal activity?
  • Is spam really a kind of theft? How big a problem is spam? What steps do you take to avoid spam?
  • Do you understand identity theft? What steps do you take to prevent your identity being stolen? Are you personally concerned about having your identity stolen?


  1. Before you start the reading and the assignments, take a few minutes to think about what you already know about the topic - Computers and Crime. Write a sentence or two about this in the I know... discussion.

  2. Read the Study notes for an overview for the topics that will be covered.

  3. Read the article Crime on the Internet. This is an older article. Some more recent examples are not included.

  4. Read a few items in the current issue of the Risks Forum http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks and post a brief 1-2 sentence summary of one item to Risks Forum discussion. Include a link to the item you select.

  5. Search the web for sites that talk about computers and crime. Find a site that you think is particularly interesting. Write 2-3 sentences about the social issues discussed. Post a link to the web site and description to the Computers and Crime discussion. To encourage more discussion, include a question in your posting. Is there another side to the story? Is there information that you need to understand the site you found? Be sure to ask a question that will get the discussion going about the topic.

    Follow links provided by other students and read through the page or articles. Reply to 2-3 other postings. Respond to the question. End your reply with your own questions. You are not limited to the number of posts - the objective is to get some discussion going here.

  6. Now what? - If you or someone you know has had their identity stolen or their computer hacked, what should they do? Find a resources with advice to help people recover from this situation. Post your link and a brief description of who could benefit from this resource to Hacked - now what? discussion.

  7. As new web-based services are provided and people share information, social bookmarking has evolved. Social bookmarking is a way to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. Pinterest <http://pinterest.com/>, Diigo <http://www.diigo.com/> and del.icio.us <http://del.icio.us>, Reddit <http://www.reddit.com/> are examples social bookmarking web services. Note: You are not required to create an account to complete this activity. It is ok if you just look. Pick a topic and explore the sites that are bookmarked. Post a description of your experience with social bookmarking in the discussion Social Bookmarking.

  8. Learning Literacies - Solve it - There are many tools available on the web to help with problem solving skills development and practice. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making are the primary focus of the articles provided. Review 2-3 articles in the Solve it media selections. Recommend one from the list or find one on the web that is particularly helpful. Post a link and a brief summary to the Learning Literacies - Solve it discussion. Review 2 others.

  9. Do you think you know an email scam when you see one? Take this quiz and see if you can tell the real corporate emails to customers from the phishing scams. I got 7 out of 10 right. I missed 1 scam but I would have ignored two real requests from companies I do business with.

  10. Read The 12 Principles of Collaboration. This is an archived version - there does not appear to be a current version. http://web.archive.org/web/20060427022829/http://www.mongoosetech.com/realcommunities/12prin.html
    All communities, on or off the web, adhere to basic principles in order to thrive. The 12 Principles function as a hierarchy. The chief principle, Purpose, is supported by the other 11 principles. How do these Principles apply to you - online and offline? Post a short note about your observations in the 12 Principles of Collaboration discussion.

  11. Read the guidelines for Collaboration and Group Projects

  12. Reflection - How long did you work on the assignments for this week? Is this about the same as it usually takes to complete the work each week? Is the pace of work for this class about right? What would you like changed in the course? What would help you learn more about Computers and Society? Please comment. This should be 3-4 sentences submitted as I think... assignment.

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