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Understanding Ethics Related To

Information Systems

Information Age Terms

Computer Literacy
Knowing how to use a computer to gather, store,
organize, and otherwise process information. These are
desirable and even required for many occupations today

Digital Divide
The gap developing in society between those that are
computer literate and have access to computers and
those that don’t and how it will affect them

Computer Ethics
The issues and standards of conduct as they pertain to
the use of information systems including information
privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility

Information Systems Today 9-2 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Ethics Concerns

Information Systems Today 9-3 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Privacy and Issues

Information Privacy
What information an individual must reveal to others in the
course of gaining employment or shopping online

Identify Theft
The stealing of another person’s private information
(SSN, credit card numbers, etc.) for the purpose of using it
to gain credit, borrow money, buy merchandise, or
otherwise run up debt that are never paid. This is
especially problematic because it:
• is invisible to the victim, they don’t know it is happening
• is very difficult to correct…credit agencies are involved
• can cause unrecoverable losses and legal costs

Information Systems Today 9-4 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Privacy - How to Maintain

Choose Web sites monitored by independent organizations

Use rating sites to identify merchant sites whose privacy policies
conform to standards and are monitored (e.g epubliceye.com)

Avoid Having Cookies Left on Your Machine

Use settings in your browser to block cookies from being
deposited on you machine by primary and third parties

Visit Sites Anonymously

Use online privacy services that provide total privacy by blocking
all techniques used to identify you online (e.g. Anonymizer)

Use Caution when Requesting Confirming Email

Use a separate e-mail account from normal to protect information
from your employer, sellers, and any one using your computer

Information Systems Today 9-5 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Accuracy

Information Accuracy
Concerned with assuring the authenticity and fidelity of
information, and identifying those responsible for
informational errors that harm people

Sources of Information Errors

Errors in computer output can come from two primary
sources. These are:
• Machine Errors – errors in the computer program logic,
communication and/or processing that receives,
processes, stores, and presents information
• Human Errors – errors by the person(s) entering data or
information into the computer system

Information Systems Today 9-6 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Property

Information Property
Concerned with who owns information about individuals and
how information can be sold and exchanged

Information Ownership
The organization storing the information owns it if it is given
willingly…even if unknowingly by use of their sites (e.g.
online surveys, credit card transactions, etc.)
Privacy Statements
Are stated policies from the organizations collecting the
information and how they intend to use it. These are legally
binding statements
• Internal Use – used within the organization only
• External Use – can be sold to outside parties

Information Systems Today 9-7 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Property – Example of a Privacy Statement

Information Systems Today 9-8 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Property – Gathering and Uses

Spam (see Chapter 4 for definition)

This unsolicited e-mail can come from reputable sites selling
your information. Possible problems from spam include:
• Viruses in attachments or links
• Added to other spam lists by responding
• Slows systems by taking up resources disk space

These files stored on a computer do have legitimate uses
but they also can:
• Store and transmit information about online habits
including, sites visited, purchases made, etc.
• Prevent accessing sites when cookies are refused
• Collect and combine information with other information
to build a personal profile to be sold
Information Systems Today 9-9 (©2006 Prentice Hall)
Information Property – Gathering and Uses

These stealth computer applications are installed and
then collect information about individuals without their
knowledge. Currently this technology is not illegal

Spyware Issues
Spyware applications collect and transmit, or use, this
information locally in several ways including:
• Sale of information to online marketers (spammers)
• Illegal uses such as identity theft
• Modify user experience to market to the user by
presenting ad banners, pop-ups, etc. (Adware)

Information Systems Today 9-10 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Accessibility

Information Accessibility
Concerned with defining what information a person or
organization has the right to obtain about others and how
that information is used

Who has access?

Besides personal access, other parties have the legal right
to access and view private information including:
• Government – using advanced software packages
(e.g Carnivore), e-mail traffic and all online activity can
be monitored in realtime or after the fact
• Employers – they can legally limit, monitor or access
activities on company-owned computers or networks
as long as policy has been distributed to employees

Information Systems Today 9-11 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Information Access – Example of Carnivore

Information Systems Today 9-12 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

The Need of Ethical Behavior

Ethical Behavior
Illegal versus unethical behavior is an information age
concern. Though activities are not explicitly illegal,
questions exist of whether they are unethical such as:
• Photograph manipulation/modification – in this
circumstance, the photograph not longer reflects
absolute reality
• Unauthorized use of computers – at work or at
school, “stealing time” for personal business or use
• Information collection – by companies compiling
information to sell for profit

Information Systems Today 9-13 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Responsible Computer Use
In area of ethics, we rely on guidelines to guide behavior.
These guidelines can come from many organizations

The Computer Ethics Institute developed these

guidelines for ethical computer use that prohibit the
following behaviors:
• Using a computer to harm others
• Interfering with other people’s computer work
• Snooping in other people’s files
• Using a computer to steal
• Using a computer to bear false witness
• Copying or using proprietary software without paying for it
• Using other people’s computer resources without
authorization or compensation
• Appropriating other people’s intellectual output

Information Systems Today 9-14 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Responsible Computer Use

The guidelines from the Computer Ethics Institute also

recommend the following when creating programs or
using computers:
• Thinking about the social consequences of
programs you write and systems you design (e.g
Napster, or a piece of Spyware)
• Using computers in way that show consideration
and respect for others (e.g. proliferation of viruses,
instant messaging, etc.)

Information Systems Today 9-15 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes

Computer Crime
The act of using a computer to commit an illegal act. The
broad definition of computer crime can include the
• Targeting a computer while committing an offense
(e.g gaining entry to a computer system in order to
cause damage to the computer or the data it contains)
• Using a computer to commit and offense
(e.g. stealing credit card numbers from a company
• Using computers to support criminal activity
(e.g. drug dealer using computers to store records of
illegal transactions)

Information Systems Today 9-16 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes and the Impact on Organizations

Information Systems Today 9-17 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crime – Unauthorized Access

Unauthorized Access
A person gaining entry
to a computer system
for which they have no
authority to use such


Information Systems Today 9-18 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crime – Unauthorized Access Trends

Information Systems Today 9-19 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes – Who Commits Them?

Unauthorized Access
1998 Survey of
1600 companies by

82% come from

inside the

Information Systems Today 9-20 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes – Who Commits Them?

Unauthorized Access
2004 Survey by
Computer Security Institute

Information Systems Today 9-21 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes - Hacking and Cracking

A term to describe unauthorized access to computers
based entirely on a curiosity to learn as much as
possible about computers. It was originally used to
describe MIT students in the 1960s that gained access to
mainframes. It was later used universally used for gaining
unauthorized access for any reason

A term to describe those who break into computer
systems with the intention of doing damage or
committing crimes. This was created because of
protests by true hackers

Information Systems Today 9-22 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crimes – Cracker (Humorous)

Information Systems Today 9-23 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Computer Crime – Software Piracy

Software Piracy
This practice of buying one copy and making multiple
copies for personal and commercial use, or for resale
is illegal in most countries while others offer weak or
nonexistent protections. This has become and
international problem as shown below

Information Systems Today 9-24 (©2006 Prentice Hall)

Destructive Code that Replicates
These programs disrupt the normal function of a computer
system though harmless pranks or by destroying files on
the infected computer. They come in several types:
• Boot Sector – attaches to the section of a hard disk or
floppy disk that boots a computer.
• File Infector – attach themselves to certain file types such
as .doc, .exe, etc.
• Combination – viruses can change types between boot
sector and file infector to fool antivirus programs
• Attachment – released from an e-mail when an attachment
is launched. Can also send themselves address book

This destructive code also replicates and spreads through
networked computers but does damage by clogging up
memory to slow the computer versus destroying files
Information Systems Today 9-25 (©2006 Prentice Hall)