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TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: flccrime.txt

Florida's Computer Crime






                                                                  
                FLORIDA'S COMPUTER CRIME                                          
                
                                                  
     In an attempt to gauge the impact of computer crime in the 
State, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) 
conducted a comprehensive survey of the local law enforcement 
community, State Attorneys' Offices and area businesses.  The 
survey was part of FDLE's continuing goal of assessing changing 
crime problems and trends in Florida.  The primary purpose of the 
study was to determine the extent of computer crime in Florida 
and to assess the impact it may be having on law enforcement 
agencies and prosecutors in the State.                            

     For purposes of this study, computer crime was defined as 
any crime in which the computer was either the tool or the object 
of the crime.  In other words, the computer had to be an 
essential part of the crime.                                      

     A total of 1,300 surveys were sent to law enforcement 
agencies, State prosecutors and businesses.  Three different 
survey questionnaires were developed for each of the three groups 
included in the study.  All police, sheriff and public safety 
departments in Florida received questionnaires, as well as 20 
State Attorneys' Offices and 898 public and private Florida 
businesses.  The rate of return was 73.6% for law enforcement, 
90% for State Attorneys, and 44.9% for businesses.                

     The businesses surveyed consisted of organizations that had 
computer systems currently in operation at their facilities. 
Included in this group were universities, defense firms, 
government agencies, service industries and companies from other 
fields.  A formula was used to ensure a representative sample of 
businesses.  One business per 40,000 county population was 
selected, with a minimum of 2 businesses selected from counties 
with a population less than 40,000.                               

     The State Attorneys' Offices surveyed indicated a steady 
rise in the number of computer-related crimes prosecuted by their 
offices.  The study revealed, though, that the number of cases 
handled by prosecutors is still much lower than the actual number 
of computer crimes reported.  The report attributes this 
discrepancy to the fact that in many computer-related cases, no 
suspect is identified, thereby precluding the need for further 
legal action in the case.                                         

     Of the business respondents, 24.2% indicated that within the 
last 12 months, they had experienced some type of verifiable 
computer crime, ranging from theft of computer soft/hardware, 
unauthorized use of computer resources, to destruction/    
alteration of computer data.  One-fifth of the businesses 
reported verifiable monetary losses attributed to computer 
crime.                                                            

     Perhaps the most disturbing findings of the survey concern 
the ability of law enforcement to adequately combat computer 
crime.  Business respondents were asked to rate the ability of 
Federal, State and local authorities to effectively investigate 
computer crime based on the previous experience of the 
respondent.  Federal agencies were given a fair to good rating, 
and State law agencies received a fair mark, while local law 
enforcement was given a poor rating.  This response would perhaps 
explain another finding of the survey: 65% of the business 
respondents said that they do not report any type of 
computer-related crime to authorities.                            

     The survey revealed that among local law enforcement 
agencies, 64% handled computer-related crimes using standard 
investigative procedures.                                         

     One-fifth of the responding departments assigned computer 
cases to an investigator with special expertise in computer crime 
investigation.                                                    

     Among the law enforcement and State Attorneys' respondents, 
there was an overwhelming consensus that there was not adequate 
computer crime training available to local law enforcement 
agencies.  These respondents also indicated that if a case does 
go to trial, juries have difficulty understanding the 
complexities of computer crime.                                   

     The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recommends some 
steps for departments interested in improving computer-related 
crime investigations.  These include sponsoring enrollment in 
basic computer operations courses to orient investigators to the 
many functions and uses (and potential misuses) of computers.  In 
addition, the study concludes, successful prosecution depends on 
improving specific computer crime investigative techniques.       



ABOUT THE ARTICLE:

     This information, provided by Special Agent Jeff Herig, 
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was compiled into a report 
entitled Computer Crime in Florida, 1989. 
 


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