Faces of Crime

Crimes over the Internet are often impersonal with victims and criminals rarely coming face to face with each other. But for those who serve as the Internet’s “police officers,” like the University’s Kent Strickland, it’s the human contact that is the worst aspect.

“I hate the part where you have to confront somebody and they have to be sanctioned or arrested,” he said. “I do it because obviously I have to. You can’t have those kind of things threatening the network. I don’t hesitate in doing it, I just don’t like it.”

Any activity that could expose sensitive information–like e-mail passwords, grade reports or P00 numbers–or is seen as a waste of University resources can be cause for punishment, Strickland said.

At the University, sanctions for policy violators include losing Internet access in residence hall rooms, performing community service or doing research projects on the importance of technology security. The most serious violations or multiple time offenders can be prosecuted.

Often as with faculty and staff counterparts, students don’t take the time to read the network policies and many are unaware that they are acting illegally, Strickland said. Several University student employees have been fired in the past three years due to network policy violations. Other full-time faculty members have faced disciplinary action for network violations such as leave without pay for several days, Strickland said.

“I imagine a lot of people read [network policies] about as carefully as they do your average copyright agreement,” he said. “Today’s world is information overload and so a lot of people probably don’t look at it carefully.”

While spamming and computer attacking are frequently sanctioned at the University, computers running peer-to-peer applications–an illegal tactic used to obtain free copies of movies and music–are the most common offense among students. Copyright owners tracking such illegal movements–like Sony Records– file formal complaints with the University in hopes they can force students to stop before the company pursues legal action.

Because of the large number of complaints the University’s Information Technology Services office was receiving, the Office of Student Life has formally teamed up with ITS to assist in handling those complaints this semester.

And according to Michael Ginsburg, assistant dean of students, they’ve been keeping busy, receiving 60 complaints of such behavior since September.

A lack of understanding, not a lack of knowledge, may be why so many repeatedly break the law, Ginsburg said.

“I think a lot of it is ignorance on the part of students,” he said. “Students may understand that it’s illegal, they just don’t understand the seriousness of what they’re doing.”

Though the network policies at BGSU apply to students living off campus as well, the University is not notified of online criminal activity here.