Computer hacking has been around for as long as we can remember - certainly as long as we have had a World Wide Web.
Occasionally, the news speaks of silly pranks which imply nothing more than a temporary shutdown of a website, although 'Comrades' hack forced a three-week shutdown for repairs and cost the U.S. government $41,000.
Recently, the case of the hackers tampering with the CIA's website, changing the title to 'Central Stupidity Agency' and filling it with obscenities was merely a nuisance for the agency. It posed no real threat because the CIA's files are inaccessible via that Internet site.
Undoubtedly, there are some who see humour in this - a civilian, probably not even a professional, outwitting an elite US agency.
Then there are more serious crimes, which are no laughing matter.In one case of corporate espionage, two 'heavy manufacturing' firms were bidding on a $900 million contract; one outbid the other by a fraction of a percent.
This was no co-incidence as the losing company later discovered that someone had broken into the company's computer network and accessed files that contained bidding strategy information.
In another case, authorities are chasing an individual who regularly hires U.S. teens to access confidential documents. One young hacker was paid $1,000 - and promised $10,000 more - for stealing design documents for kitchen appliances from U.S. firms.
Beyond selling the trade secrets to a company's competition, some hackers resort to extortion of the company. In Sweden, a 15 and 17 year old tried to extort $2 million from a cellular company to destroy information they had illegally downloaded.
Like most cases of extortion, the criminal's identity is especially difficult to trace and is magnified because of the nature of the Net.
When the Internet was gaining immense popularity, businesses were scrambling to secure domain names and using the technology to expand their market. Seeing e-commerce as an untapped...