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How Engineering Progress Precipitates Crime

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Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
More About Catching Crime
Alexander Wolfe   7/11/2011 8:39:33 AM
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A provocative thesis, but I'd flip it around and say what you've written about says more about engineers' (and law enforcements') increasing awareness of the collateral vulnerabilities of networks, etc.,  Importantly, organizations like the FBI are doing something to address cybercrime. So I'd say ultimately we have an optimisitic outlook here, tempered only by the sad fact that it's really, really hard to keep up with (catch, stay ahead of) these organized cybercriminal gangs.

Dave Palmer
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What do the numbers say?
Dave Palmer   7/11/2011 8:50:53 AM
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In order to show that technological progress causes crime, you would need to show an increase in the overall crime rate that can't be attributed to any other factoe. Is that what the data show? Obviously, as technologies are more widely used in society as a whole, they will be more widely used in crime as well. But this is different from saying that technology actually causes crime. Without seeing the data, I am very skeptical of this claim.

Douglas Smock
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Expect the Unexpected
Douglas Smock   7/11/2011 10:18:41 AM
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Geoffrey, this is an excellent post, and I think the first two commenters may be a little too defensive about the tech industry. The point is simply that criminals can work in much more sophisticated ways today than they could during the salad days of Whitey Bulger and Jesse James.  I think a key takeaway from your post is the observation that tech innovation may be stymied by the inability of law enforcement officials (and internal Web security personnel) to outthink how a global band of interconnected hackers may be able to exploit new developments.

As an individual who benefits from, and makes, extensive use of new technology--but is not “part of” the tech industry--let me make an observation about one aspect of this issue. I think commercial enterprises need to be much less sanguine when they make comments that data such as credit card numbers are “completely safe” when posted on a Web site. An infamous incident comes to mind with the Boston Globe, which actually printed thousands of customers’ credit card numbers on paper that was used to wrap and distributed bundles of Globes. Here was an act of total incompetence that probably didn’t even involve computer hackers! Other, more sophisticated examples are rife. Even data internally protected with RSA security devices proved to be vulnerable to external digital attack.

I think Geoffrey’s message needs to be taken seriously. Expect the unexpected.

Rob Spiegel
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A new criminal
Rob Spiegel   7/11/2011 12:20:25 PM
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