The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on December 10, 1992 · 39
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 39

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 10, 1992
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Computer ffl THE GUARDIAN Thursday December 10 1992 In the age of the hacker two academics have specialised in computer forensics. But are the controls they suggest worse than the complaints they seek to cure? arSinrue Ibaostteirs Paul Fisher r NNUAL losses from com-tSXx Puter crime are over 407 w million. This decade will ArfJcertainly witness the first 100 million computer fraud. These alarming assertions also grab attention at the beginning of articles signed by Exeter University's Barry Spaul and Paul Collier. Lecturers in computing and accounting who publish in learned organs like The Journal of the Forensic Science Society, they are respected enough to have secured the 16,000 supporting the Woolwich Centre for Computer Crime Research at their university. Its work recently attracted a 60,000 European Community grant to study American methods of dealing with computer emergencies, including "criminal attacks on computer systems, such as hacking to commit fraud and theft". A Woolwich Building Society spokesman says that although his organisation hasn't fallen victim to computer crime, the centre's excellent research is a form of corporate insurance. Businesses should know how "computers are used to undertake crime" and society as a whole needs "ways of analysing and presenting evidence to obtain convictions". Computer forensics is the centre's phrase for this new branch of the law. Yet ask Spaul for details supporting his alarmist opening paragraphs and coyness rules. He says there are in fact "no accurate figures", and he won't talk of particular crimes either. He says that when employers catch employees with their guilty fingers on the keyboards there are sackings but Jack Schof ield IICROSOFT has started ship-Dine Modular Windows, the stripped-down version used in Tandy's new Video Information System (VIS), a multimedia CD-ROM player (Microflle, September 3). The whole system fits into a megabyte of storage space, though it offers most of the Windows API (applications programming interface), plus Video for Windows and code to handle memory cards and remote control handsets. A megabyte of RAM is said to be enough to run typical applications. Modular Windows is designed for systems that use a TV set for their display, like the VIS player. These are assumed not to need the File Manager, TrueType fonts, printer drivers and "applets" (Write, Paint etc) that are a standard part of Windows 3.1. Later versions of Modular Windows will be adapted for pocket computers and electronic organisers or PDAs (personal digital assistants). no prosecutions for fear of commercial embarrassment though he has not met one such ex-employee. Further, these unspecified crimes are often so hard to understand that Spaul advocates jury-free trials judged by a panel of experts. Employers, he says, should "physically tie victim and perpetrator together with biometrics" which enable computers to log staff by their fingerprints, typing styles, or the patterns on their retinas. Spaul also criticises journalists who "provide little sound information about computer crimes beyond occasional case histories which may not be typical." Well, I have lots of clippings, but they don't add up to 400 million. Many betray sub-editors' struggles to beef up watery stews with headlines like: The mad hacker, Password to the Pentagon, Criminals move into cyberspace and, my favourite, The strange case of the disappearing computer crime statistics. This last summarised a Computer Guardian article by Hugo Cornwall, who visited the London Business School (to which Spaul and assorted consultants attribute the 407 million figure), and found "no relevant published research" validating the number. More recently a National Computing Centre survey revealed that 16 of the 900 respondents to a questionnaire were computer crime victims and had lost a total of 190,000. Extrapolated to Britain's 50,000 big computer users, that's under 10 million a year. Information from The Audit Commission gives cause for even greater indifference. Its most recent report has 73 case histories for the three years to 1991. A loss of 1.1 Microsoft says more than 90 software developers support Modular Windows. The system should certainly appeal to those with multimedia PC applications on CD-ROM, since it will enable them to adapt these to run on the new players. But only if the players start selling in volume will it be a sustainable market. THE DAILY MAIL is expanding the Ideal Home Exhibition to include the Ideal Electronic Games Show. It hopes to attract about 40,000 dedicated games players to the event, which will be held at Earls Court, London, at the end of March. News International, which publishes The Sun, The Sunday Times and other tabloids, is also planning a consumer electronics show with the focus on video games. Live'93 will be held at Olympia in September, and is expected to attract 150,000 visitors. is launchine software ver- B stons of its time management software with a "sale or return" offer In January. Key Results will be available for DOS, Microsoft Windows 8, LAN Manager and Paul Collier and Barry Spaul at Exeter million was down from the previous three years when 2.5 million went missing. For comparison, the Home Office estimates shop thefts at 2.5 billion. Every year. The statistics tell a tepid story. Nonetheless the 1992 issue of Policing and Society finds Spaul and Collier including the same 407 million in their opening paragraph, claiming "the available statistics suffer from three problems": defining computer crimes; the reluctance of victims to report them; and the possibility that many crimes are undetected. Take the last point first because it's the silliest True, all sorts of things are possible. Elephant eating might be rife in Barnsley but until it's discovered, why get het up? And even if computer crime does go undetected, there are many definitions of it starting with the Audit Commission's common sense one of "fraudulent behaviour connected with computerisation". There's also a mass of legislation, from the Theft Act 1968 to the Novell Netware. Users can print out daily plans, to-do lists and appointments schedules to fit any of TMI's binders. Network users can share diaries. The Windows version will cost 195 plus VAT until March 31. A simpler but extremely good to-do list program for Windows is available now stuck to the front of Computer Buyer magazine. Wilson WindowWare's Reminder 1.3d also includes a calendar and a simple scheduler. The program is distributed as shareware and costs $59.95 to register. In the UK the program is handled by Unica Shareware, tel: 061-429 0241. SUN has announced that five universities have bought SparcCentre 2000 systems to replace mainframes from Amdahl, D3M and ICL. The universities are Durham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle. Warwick University has bought two SparcCentres. .- CNN is now available in a searchable online version. Or at least, transcripts of 50 of Cable News Network's programmes are available on the DataTimes database in Oklahoma City. The University's Centre for Computer Crime Research photograph: jot morgan Data Protection Act 1984 to the Computer Misuse Act 1990. What is lacking are jails full of computer crooks. As of 1990, Spaul and Collier reported six prosecutions. Then there's the assertion that companies protect themselves from charges of incompetence by leaving computer fraud unreported. So when the Woolwich claims not to have suffered digital banditry, the Alice in Wonderland conclusion is that it probably has. . . Isn't this the logic of headline seekers, grant chasers and consultants who must scare clients into buying security measures? Collier concedes the point, saying: "I think this thing is over-hyped, particularly by consultants." And academics? "We're out to further our cause and it's not in our interest to play it down, is it?" From exaggeration and assertion come recommendations for jury-free computer trials plus psychometrics, biometrics and other forms of personnel bullying. I tell Spaul he's an programmes include CNN Prime News, Moneyline, Futurewatch and Larry King Live, with transcripts going back to January 1, 1991. Tel: (0101-405) 751 6400. A BUG in some versions of Microsoft MS-DOS and D3M PC-DOS versions 4.01 and 5.0 could lead to a loss of data on hard discs or hard disc partitions that are about 128 megabytes in size. The problem occurs when using CHKDSK with the IF switch on drives with more than 65,278 allocation units or clusters. Typing CHKDSK on its own is safe. The bug was in versions of MS-DOS 5 with directory dates of April 9, 1991. It was corrected in MS-DOS 5.0A, which has directory dates of November 11, 1991. News of the bug reached the UK via the Cix conferencing system. For a good account of the whole sorry saga, see the December issue of Virus News International (tel: 0442873033). FUJITSU, the world's second biggest computer company, has made its first net loss. Sales for the six months to September 30 increased by 7 per cent to 1.7 anti-libertarian who would restrict individual freedom to further corporate interests. "Computers bring freedom," he replies. "That freedom brings problems which must be controlled. Business too should open it-self to greater scrutiny for computing has changed the fundamental principles of accounting." Spaul says technology should bear on company reports where modern accountants exploit elderly methods to do things like creating profits without cash. If businesses were compelled to provide untreated financial data on CD-ROM, it could be analysed by artificial intelligence software; auditors, tax authorities and competitors could then arrive at better informed conclusions. It would also, Spaul says, "give a chance for individuals to get back at corporate cynicism". That's an argument to balance his earlier suggestions, though I doubt it's what the Woolwich had in mind when it joined the fight against computer crime. trillion yen ($14.2 billion), but operating income plunged 61 per cent to 25.4 billion yen ($213 million). The net result was a loss of 19.2 billion yen ($161 million). Fujitsu blamed the worldwide recession, lower margins due to increased competition, and the rise of the yen. THIS YEAR more than 2 million home computers and video games consoles will be sold in the UK, according to claims published in Computer Trade Weekly. The installed base of current machines must therefore be nearly 12 million, and that's without counting obsolete Amstrads, Spectrums and the odd Dragon. The Commodore 64 and Atari VCS console have each sold about 1.7 million units, but they've been around for years. The Amiga (1.4 million), Sega Megadrive (1 million) and Nintendo GameBoy are the current market leaders, ahead of the Sega Master (1.125 million), NES (1.15 million) and Atari ST (900,000). However, the Super NES is coming up fast. Bandai, the distributor, expects to sell almost 700,000 this year, and the machine was only launched In April.

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