More and more, the operations of our businesses, governments, and financial institutions are controlled by information that exists only inside computer memories. Anyone clever enough to modify this information for his own purposes can reap substantial rewards.

Even worse, a  number of people who have done this and been caught at it have managed to get away without punishment. A recent Stanford Research Institute study of computer abuse was based on 160 case histories, which probably are just the tip of the iceberg. After all» we only know about the unsuccessful computer crimes.

How many successful ones  have gone undetected is anybody’s guess. For the last decade or so, computer programmers have concentrated on making it easy for people to use computer systems. Unfortunately, in some situations the systems are all too easy to use; they don’t impose nearly enough restrictions to safeguard confidential information or to  prevent unauthorized persons from changing the information in a file.

A computer system needs a sure way of identifying the people who are authorized to use it. The identification procedure has to be quick and convenient. Besides, it should be so thorough that there is little chance of the computer being fooled by a clever imposter, who dishonestly  pretends to be an authorized user.

At the same time, the computer must not reject legitimate users. Unfortunately, no identification system currently in use meets all these requirements. At present, signatures are widely used to identify credit-card holders, but it takes an expert to detect a good forgery.


Sometimes even a human  expert is deceived, and there is no reason to believe that a computer could do any better. A variation is to have the computer analyse a person’s hand movements as he signs his name instead of analysing the signature itself. Advocates of this method claim that different persons’ hand movements are sufficiently distinct to identify them. And while a  forger might learn to duplicate another person’s signature, he probably would not move his hand exactly the way the person whose signature he was forging did.

Photographs are also sometimes used for identification. But, people find it inconvenient to stop by a bank or credit-card company and be  photographed. Companies might lose business if they made the pictures an absolute requirement. Also, photographs are less useful these days, when people frequently change their appearance by changing the way they wear their hair. Finally, computer programmes for analysing photographs are still highly experimental.

 Cash-dispensing systems often use two identification numbers: one is recorded on a magnetic strip on the identification card, and the other is given to the card holder. When the user inserts his card into the cash-dispensing terminal, or the automatic money machine, he keys in the identification nur. ıber he has been given. The computer checks to  see that the number recorded on the card and the one keyed in by the user both refer to the same person. Someone who stole the card would not know what number had to be keyed in order to use it.

This method currently is the one most widely used for identifying computer users. For a long time, fingerprints have provided a method of positive  identification. But they suffer from two problems, one technical and one psychological. The technical problem is that there is no simple system for comparing fingerprints electronically.


Also, most methods of taking fingerprints are messy. The psychological problem is that fingerprints are strongly associated in the public mind with police  procedures. Because most people associate being fingerprinted with being arrested, they almost surely would resist being fingerprinted for routine identification. Voiceprints may be more promising. With these, the user has only to speak a few words into a microphone for the computer to analyse his  voice.

There are no psychological problems here. And technically it is easier to take and analyse voiceprints than fingerprints. Also, for remote computer users, the identifying words could be transmitted over the telephone. However, voiceprints still require more research. It has yet to be proved that the computer cannot be fooled by mimics. Also,  technical difficulties arise when the voice is subjected to the noise and distortion of a telephone line.

Mark the best choice.

1. Line 4, ‘reap’ has the same meaning as .

a) control b) gain c) change d) use
2. Line 24, ‘forgery’ refers to an act of

. a) detecting b) analysing c) deceiving d) signing

3. Line 28, ‘advocates* are .

a) credit-card holders b) performers c) human experts d) supporters


4. Line 22, ‘all these requirements’ refers to .

a) speed, convenience and the ability to distinguish authorized users from unauthorized ones

b) not rejecting legitimate users

c) serving legitimate users while not being fooled by illegitimate ones

d) not being fooled by imposters


5. Which of the following is true?

a) As many as 160 computer crimes have been committed so far.

b) Stanford Research Institute has recently studied the history of computer crimes.

c) Anyone can change the information in the storage unit of a computer.

d) The exact number of computer crimes is not known.


6. Unauthorised people can modify the information in the memory of a computer because .

a) such people are intelligent enough to make changes for their own purposes

b) confidential information cannot be stored safely

c) computer systems are easily accessible to any user

d) those people get away without punishment even when they are caught


7. To identify the users, it is suggested that the computer analyses

a) why a person duplicates another person’s signature

b) the reason why human experts are mistaken

c) the signature of the person

d) how the person moves hishand while signing


8. Which of the following is not a disadvantage of using photographs for identification?

a) It is not convenient for people to be photographed at a bank or company.

b) A number of experiments have to be done to analyse photographs.

c) People’s appearance may change quite often.

d) People may avoid doing business with companies that demand photographs.


9. The magnetic strips on the identification card .

a) are inserted into the cash-dispensing terminal

b) carry the identification number of the card holder

c) are the same as those given to the card holder

d) need to be keyed in to be checked by the computer


10. Computer users would be against the use of fingerprints for routine identification because .

a) fingerprints cannot be compared electronically

b) it is an unpleasant experience to be fingerprinted

c) it would make people feel as if they were being arrested

d) methods of taking fingerprints are usually messy


11. One problem with using voicesprints is that .

a) facial movements of users may mislead computers

b) computers are not yet capable of analysing human voices

c) computers cannot analyse the noise through.a telephone line

d) it is not suitable for remote computer users

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