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COMPUTERS HAVE A DARK SIDE: CRIME

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The home computer displayed on the screen: Invalid password "Please re-enter."

It's 3 a.m. and most of the world sleeps. Most businesses have long since locked their doors. An occasional police car patrols business and residential sections of the city. The burglaries seem to have slowed since last week's arrest. Once again society appears safe from the criminal element. 3:01 a.m. Invalid password "Please re-enter."Most of us have learned to deal with traditional crime, which includes burglary and theft. After all, I can understand why someone might steal. I don't condone it, but I do understand it. I also think it's important to stop it.

3:02 a.m. Invalid password "Please re-enter."

The world has changed. When I stop at the grocery store, a speaker attached to the cash register identifies each purchased item along with the cost. When I bank I get money from a machine in the parking lot, not a human teller.

I don't even get my paycheck anymore. It magically appears in my checking account.

3:03 a.m. Invalid password "Please re-enter."

The family down the street had difficulty with their oldest child. He stayed up late, often out with friends. He was arrested once or twice. The parents worried.

Christmas last year proved to be a boon to the family. Santa left a personal computer; it wasn't real fancy but it would do. Soon the wayward child spent a great deal of time playing games and learning programming.

And now, with the addition of an inexpensive modem, other computers were within reach of this once wayward child.

Password successful. 5:04 a.m. EDT Welcome to Gandalf, North America's credit history resource. Command:

The parents felt reassured. Their son was settling down. He was smart. In fact, as they explained to their friends, to understand all that computer stuff, he must be brilliant.

It's possible, with the right information, to enter credit bureau files and obtain a credit history on nearly any person the user desires. Credit bureaus contain the credit histories of millions of people. All credit history computers are not as secure as they ought to be.

The specifics of this story are fictitious but are based on similar situations I'm aware of. The world of computers and digital processing devices has opened a tremendous opportunity for enhancing our lifestyles.

Unfortunately, there also is a dark side to computers, a side capable of threatening our lifestyles. A select segment of the population has learned to use and abuse these tremendous tools.

The Orem Department of Public Safety believes that information about the dark side of computers is valuable to residents. You need to know you could be a victim, the signs to watch for and how to protect yourself. You need to know how to tell if your children are into computer crime.

I hope to answer these and many more questions in this five-part series. If you have a comment or question, please contact Sgt. Clarke Christensen at the Orem Department of Public Safety, 56 N. State St., Orem, UT 84057.