Back in the '80s, when computers were generally regarded as the provenance of the super-smart leftbrain, and there were no cops in cyberspace, the media developed two computer-related cliches. One was the scenario of a mad hacker/cracker/whatever-you-want-to-call-them wreaking havoc, and finally being revealed as a kid twelve years old or younger. The other was the ruthless adult hacker/cracker, who, just so we knew he had no scruples, would break into his bank’s computer system and manipulate his balance so that he always had four figures or more, without ever making a deposit. (Oh, and then there was the high-school kid who would change your grade for a fee or a promise of popularity…)
Anyway, I was wondering if the second scenario was ever played out IRL. I am not asking if it’s possible now; I just wonder if it ever happened in the '80s, before banks created failsafes to prevent such a thing.
Add to this a third scenario - someone clever with mainframes that invented money. I’m feeling lazy, so I won’t dig for a cite, but it happened once or twicw that someone wrote a subroutine that captured all the rounding leftovers from interest calculations. (Let’s say an interest calculation results in something like $1.134 - it’s rounded to $1.13, and the .4 cents is dumped down the drain.)
This guy snagged all those .4 cents and with the many transactions processed in a day, amassed quite a pile of money a couple tenths of a cent at a time and poured it all into his account. The technique is also called “salami” fraud.
Here’s the fun part - he literally made money. Absolutely nothing was stolen from customer accounts. He just found out how to gather up the computational garbage and use it.
When I was taking computing science back in the 70’s, one of my textbooks said the first computer crime was perpetrated by a programmer who added code to the bank’s overdraft-checking program, that would make it skip over his account. So he could withdraw as much money as he wanted from his account, because nothing was catching the fact that he was overdrawn. He was only caught when the computer went down and they had to check balances by hand for a while.
When I was in high school someone broke into the school computer and managed to change some grades around. All it ended up doing was delaying our report cards for a couple of weeks while they sorted all the grades out by hand.
When I was in college we figured out how to connect to computers by area (this was before the internet as you know it today). Some people I knew at the time were convinced they could hack into all kinds of stuff and find something neat. They managed to find an air force computer of some sort, and the guy freaked out after seeing that it was an official government computer of some sort, and turned off the terminal and immediately left the building. So of course we all kept mentioning that we saw curious looking guys in dark suits prowling around campus just to make him extra paranoid. I think it was a month before he dared to touch a terminal again.
At the time a friend of a friend claimed he could get into a fairly major bank’s system and had managed to move some money orders around. I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but I recall being somewhat unconvinced at the time.