An Ethnographic Study about the Consequences of Cybercrime

Computer Fraud

Computer fraud is the use of information technology to commit fraud. In the United States, computer fraud is specifically proscribed by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which provides for jail time and fines.

Notable incidents

Unauthorized access at North Bay

Jessica Quitugua Sabatia, a former accounts payable clerk for North Bay Health Care Group, admitted to using her computer to access North Bay’s accounting software without authorization, and in turn issued various checks payable to herself and others. Several of the checks were cashed by Sabatia or deposited into her personal bank account, and some were deposited into the bank accounts of others. She attempted to conceal the fraud by altering the electronic check registers of North Bay to make it appear as if the checks had been payable to the company’s vendors. The fraudulent scheme resulted in losses to North Bay of at least $875,035.

On May 27, 2004, Sabatia, plead guilty to two counts of computer fraud, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine

Denial of Service Attack

On January 19, 2001, Dennis was sentenced to six months incarceration; three months in jail and three months of home confinement, followed by one year of supervised release. Additionally, he must allow authorities to monitor his computer activity, and perform 240 hours of community service.

Malicious Systems Admin at UBS

A disgruntled computer systems administrator for UBS PaineWebber was charged with using a “logic bomb” to cause more than $3 million in damage to the company’s computer network, and with securities fraud for his failed plan to drive down the company’s stock with activation of the logic bomb. Roger Duronio is charged in one count of securities fraud which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine and one charge of computer fraud which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000 or, alternatively, two times the gain made by the defendant or the loss suffered by the victim.

Duronio, who worked at PaineWebber’s offices in Weehawken, N.J., planted the logic bomb in some 1,000 of PaineWebber’s approximately 1,500 networked computers in branch offices around the country. The logic bomb, which was activated after Durino resigned, deleted files on over 1,000 of UBS PaineWebber’s computers. It cost PaineWebber more than $3 million to assess and repair the damage. Duronio also purchased more than $21,000 of “put option” contracts for UBS PaineWebber’s parent company, UBS, A.G.’s stock, hoping that the stock would decline in response to the damage caused by the logic bomb. The bomb attack did not have any impact on the price of the stock.

The investigation of Duronio was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service’s Electronic Crimes Task Force with help from UBS PaineWebber.

Robert Duronio

Illegal Data Mining

The owner of Snipermail, a business that distributes advertisements via the Internet to e-mail addresses on behalf of advertisers or their brokers was indicted for conspiracy, unauthorized access of a protected computer, access device fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

It was alleged that Scott Levine and other Snipermail employees illegally accessed a computer database owned and operated by Acxiom Corporation, a company that stores, processes, and manages personal, financial, and corporate data on behalf of its clients. On numerous occasions, Levine and others illegally entered into an Acxiom file transfer protocol (ftp) server and downloaded significant amounts of data. The intrusions were traced back to an internet protocol address that belonged to one of Snipermail’s computers. The downloading of the databases lasted for period of a year and a half and represented 8.2 gigabytes of data. While the stolen data contained personal information about a great number of individuals and could have resulted in tremendous loss if the information were used in a fraudulent way, there was no evidence to date that any of the data was misused in this way. Acxiom, immediately notified law enforcement upon discovery of intrusions into its system and assisted with the investigation which was conducted by a task force formed the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) and the United States Secret Service (USSS).

Scott Levine

The Melissa Worm

David L. Smith, a 31-year old New Jersey programmer was accused of unleashing the “Melissa” computer virus, a Visual Basic for Applications[clarification needed] based worm.[1] This virus was propagated by deliberately posting an infected document to an usenet newsgroup from a stolen AOL account. It is believed that Smith named the virus after a stripper he had known in Florida. He constructed the virus to evade anti-virus software and to infect computers using Microsoft Windows and Word programs. The Melissa virus appeared on thousands of email systems on March 26, 1999, disguised as an important message from a colleague or friend. The virus was designed to send an infected email to the first 50 email addresses on the users’ Microsoft Outlook address book. Each infected computer would infect 50 additional computers, which in turn would infect another 50 computers. The virus proliferated rapidly and exponentially, resulting in substantial interruption and impairment of public communications and services. Many system administrators had to disconnect their computer system from the internet. Companies such as MicrosoftIntelLockheed Martin and Lucent Technologies were forced to shut down their e-mail gateways due to the vast amount of email the virus was generating. To date, the Melissa virus is the most costly outbreak, causing more than $400 million in damages to North American businesses.

Smith was one of the first persons ever to be prosecuted for writing a virus. He was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and a fine of $5,000. He was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison sentence.

The investigation was conducted by members of the New Jersey State Police High Technology Crime Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and the Defense Criminal Investigative service.

Once the fraud was discovered, an audit was performed and the report is available at Summerford audit report.


  1. ^ Johanna Granville “Dot.Con: The Dangers of Cyber Crime and a Call for Proactive Solutions,” Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 49, no. 1. (Winter 2003), pp. 102-109.

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