Example research essay topic: The Costs Society Faces From Hacker Abuse – 1,265 words

Hackers cost governments, corporations, and even
normal people billions of dollars per year. You
might ask, sure, there are those out there for
profit, but what about the college student who was
just doing it for fun? Profit or fun, it’s still
theft. In some cases theft of money, in others,
theft of information. Just because a person uses a
computer should not impact the severity of their
punishment. A murderer’s punishment is not
affected by which weapon he chooses to employ, so
why should a thief’s punishment be affected?
Usually, information is stolen for the express
purpose of making money, either directly, or
through the sale of the information obtained, or
by blackmail. In today’s fast-paced computerized
world, knowledge is indeed power.

Through the
miracle of the Internet, information can be shared
and accessed around the globe, instantaneously. At
any given time, millions of people’s credit card
numbers, social security numbers, and other
private data are flying through phone lines near
your house. The downside to this technological
marvel that we all use, whether we know it or not,
is that thieves, disgruntled network
administrators, and other unsavory characters can
make an easy living off of the Internet, maybe
even stealing from you. How? It’s all in a day’s
work for them. One Russian hacker spent a few
years bleeding money from the Citibank corporation
here in the states from his cozy little house in
Russia. His labor was rewarded with $10.4 million
dollars in several bank accounts around the world.
Unfortunately for him, his labor was also rewarded
with arrest.

(Caryl, par. 2) However, even though
he committed the crime many years ago, he is still
in Russia, awaiting extradition. Because of the
slow response of the bureaucracy, Russia has bred
many hackers. (Caryl, par. 7) Russian hackers do
not tamper with systems in Russia, because the
Police take swift and vicious revenge for such
actions. But other countries systems are another
matter, because of the promise of great gain and
potentially little risk of being caught.

(Caryl,
par. 8) Even though the theft of money is a
growing problem, there are other things for
hackers to steal. For instance, hospitals have
very elaborate network security setups. Why? Many
hackers attempt to gain access to people’s
personal medical files in order to blackmail them,
or to avenge some injustice by spreading the
person’s health problems around. (Scheir, par. 17)
Other possibilities might go as far as to include
looking up a patient’s current location, in order
for gang members to finish off the survivor of a
drive-by shooting or other attempted murder.
(Scheir, par.

10) It is for these reasons that
medical facilities computer security procedures
are second only to the government’s. There are
even more forms of hacking to go into. One type,
called phreaking, is often a side-effect of a
computer hacker’s work. (Machlis, par. 8)
Phreaking is the manipulation of phone lines and
phone services. Over the space of a few years in
the early eighties, hackers learned how to make
free phone calls, bounce their line around to
other places to avoid traces, even damage
equipment at the other end of the line.

Using the
process of phreaking, hackers can anonymously and
untraceably link themselves to remote systems, no
matter how far away, without incurring long
distance charges. Combating hackers is a very
expensive process. It is estimated that in 1997 a
total of $6.3 billion dollars will be spent on
computer security. (Lohr, par. 1) A great deal of
this will go to protect against computer viruses.
A computer virus is a very small program that can
clone itself at will, over disks and phone lines,
and usually causes some devastating impact on the
target, such as deleting files, or even damaging
the computer. Just like human viruses, such as
AIDS, which changes form constantly to avoid
destruction, some computer viruses, called
polymorphic viruses, change slightly so that any
previous anti-virus software will no longer detect
it.

This is why there are constantly new virus
protection tools and utilities. Viruses aren’t the
only threat, though. When a company or
organization starts a web page, they must have a
wall of some type to keep people on the Internet
from accessing parts of their computer system they
want to keep private. Such programs are called
firewalls, and allow only specified access. A
firewall is the main obstacle for a hacker to get
through when he is trying to hack in from a remote
location. Unfortunately, inept use of the network
can leave the firewall inactive or disabled, and
once a hacker gets past, he can create hidden ways
for himself to access again even if the firewall
is restored.

Computer security isn’t just sitting
in a room tapping away on a keyboard, though. Some
hackers who are doing this for a living will go
out and search for information that will allow
them to break into a system. Remember the hospital
with excellent computer security? One firm, which
will break into your system, and report its
weaknesses (how they did it) back to you, was
hired to investigate a certain hospital. (Scheir,
par. 13) The firm found unbreakable computer
security, so they put on expensive business suits
and walked into the hospital. Because of the
suits, potentially troublesome questioners were
easily brushed aside as the men freely wandered
the hospital.

It seemed impossible to access
someone’s computerized medical history by the
terminals, but why bother to try when the laser
printer in an empty lounge was spitting out dozens
of them? (Scheir, par 24) Right next to it, a
receptionists desk had a stack of medical files
laying on it. As the men pocketed a few of these,
they made their way to the network operations
room, where the technician on duty unlocked the
door for them when they said they wanted to “Look
around” They wandered freely around backup tapes
containing the medical files of every patient the
hospital had record of, collecting some of them to
show to hospital officials. The actual physical
security of a building cannot be neglected. If
either physical or computer security are lacking,
determined hackers can make quick work of the
system. Perhaps the most dangerous form of hacking
is to break into a system to acquire information.
The most common use of this practice would be
industrial espionage, one company hiring hackers
to obtain advance information on a competitor’s
product, but worst of all, foreign governments
breaking into other governments systems to obtain
military strengths, statistics, and troop
deployments for a surprise attack. For this
reason, the U.S.

computer network utilizes the
most costly, complex security available. Even this
is not enough, though. A few years ago, a hacker
organization broke the CIA and FBI web sites
simultaneously and replaced the normal web pages
with pornographic materials. The intrusion was
detected immediately and within thirty minutes,
the site had been restored to normal. To this day,
the identity of the group has not been discovered.
Hackers represent a clear and present danger to
the security of the United States of America. Not
only do they cost our nation billions a year, but
hackers also contribute to a serious espionage
problem.

Hacking, no matter its form, is an act of
thievery, piracy, or blackmail, and cannot be
tolerated. Works Cited Caryl, Christian. “Russia’s
Hackers: Reach out and Rob Someone.” U.S. News
& World Report 122.15 (1997): 58 Lohr, Steve.
“Feeling insecure, are we? Go ahead, be paranoid.
Hackers are out to get you.” The New York Times 17
March 1997: C1+ Machlis, Sharon. “Phone hackers
dial up trouble.” Computerworld 31.8 (1997): 59
Schier, Robert L. “Lock the Damned Door!”
Computerworld 31.6 (1997): 66.

Research essay sample on The Costs Society Faces From Hacker Abuse