The Hamilton Spectator
Wednesday, March 18, 1998
page A3

Teenager busted for Internet misdeeds

by Bill Dunphy

Call it Robin Hood v2.1.

Cyber bandits are hacking into networks and Internet web sites, stealing crucial credit card information, and reposting it on the World Wide Web for less talented thieves to use in Internet fraud scams.

And it's not happening just in electronic hot spots like Silicon Valley or high-tech university campuses.

A Hamilton 17-year-old was charged this week with unlawful use of computer data. The teenage boy is accused of ordering $2,000 worth of books and computer parts and paying for them with credit card numbers he'd pulled off a hacker's page on an Internet web site.

Just one wrinkle in an emerging tapestry of electronic crimes, this stolen numbers game has led to increased international co-operation between police, banks, and Internet retailers, Hamilton-Wentworth detective Rick Wills said.

Trying to keep up

But while the increased co-operation has led to a number of arrests, Wills said it's a struggle keeping up. His provincial police counterparts recently added 20 computer crime specialists to their anti-rackets squad he said.

"Electronic crime is not just the crime of the future", Wills said. "It's now. It's a growing field and we're just trying to keep up."

Wills said cases like this have been popping up across North America and beyond.

According to Wills, hackers - talented but bent computer experts - crack the security devices companies use to protect sensitive information, copy the information, and then post the information on web sites to prove they succeeded.

Others visit the web sites and copy the information (which may include credit card numbers, names, expiry dates, passwords, and so on) and then use it to order goods over the Internet.

"We've had a real rash of it." In fact, Wills says, "Credit card companies have begun flagging purchases that are being delivered to an address other than the billing address."

In the Hamilton case, U.S. company fraud investigators twigged to the teen's use of American credit card numbers for purchases being delivered here, and alerted Hamilton-Wentworth police.

Wills said if the boy's parents had monitored his use of the computer and the Internet more closely, the crime would never have happened.

Copyright © 1998 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.