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Ethics of computer use: a survey of student attitudes.


The potential for misuse of computer systems and resources has been an important issue for many years. The rapid growth in use of remote access systems, the use of the internet and distributed systems Distributed systems (computers)

A distributed system consists of a collection of autonomous computers linked by a computer network and equipped with distributed system software.
 for financial and other sensitive transactions, and the expansion in the availability of products in digital form is causing ethical issues surrounding misuse of computer resources to become an increasingly serious problem.

This paper surveys ethical attitudes of a set of undergraduate business majors. The survey presents sets of scenarios in which students are asked to indicate whether a particular action is ethical or unethical unethical

said of conduct not conforming with professional ethics.
 using a 7 level Likert scale Likert scale A subjective scoring system that allows a person being surveyed to quantify likes and preferences on a 5-point scale, with 1 being the least important, relevant, interesting, most ho-hum, or other, and 5 being most excellent, yeehah important, etc . Alternative base scenarios have been designed to present ethical issues relating to relating to relate prepconcernant

relating to relate prepbezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc 
 various types of unauthorized access to computer resources. Other sets of base scenarios focus on the use of computers to illegally copy products (software and music recordings). In addition, for each base scenario, alternative sub-scenarios are presented in which the motives of the individual vary between intellectual curiosity, securing resources for personal use, profit, and malice malice, in law, an intentional violation of the law of crimes or torts that injures another person. Malice need not involve a malignant spirit or the definite intent to do harm.  toward the affected entity. The scenarios are designed to provide an evaluation of how the level of malicious intent in the action affects the students' perception of the degree to which the action represents a breach of ethics ethics, in philosophy, the study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles. Moral principles may be viewed either as the standard of conduct that individuals have constructed for themselves or as the body of obligations and duties that a .

Results of this survey suggest that the intent of the individual engaging in unauthorized access or illegal copying does substantially affect student perceptions of the degree to which the behavior is a violation of ethics. In general, actions undertaken for profit or malicious intent are judged to be less ethical than the same actions undertaken for intellectual curiosity or to secure resources for personal use. In addition, a very strong majority of the students surveyed believe that any active participation in downloading is unethical.


As the amount of corporate and personal information continues to grow and the access to that information by IT personnel increases, ethics and value judgments by IT professionals becomes more important. Research in information systems security and control, has reported large losses attributable to unethical activities (Straub, 1986). Pearson et al. define three factors which require further study of ethical behavior of IS professionals. These include a greater reliance on IT systems across the business enterprise, increasing use of system generated information for decision making, and the lack of single unified code of ethics for all IT personnel (Pearson, et. al., 1996).

Professional organizations like ACM (Association for Computing Machinery, New York, A membership organization founded in 1947 dedicated to advancing the arts and sciences of information processing. In addition to awards and publications, ACM also maintains special interest groups (SIGs) in the computer field.  and DPMA (1) (Dynamic Power Management Architecture) Power management features built into Intel chipsets. By monitoring system activity and turning itself off when not required, DPMA chipsets use up to 75% less power than previous chipsets.  have implemented an ethical code Noun 1. ethical code - a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct

system of rules, system - a complex of methods or rules governing behavior; "they have to operate under a system they oppose"; "that language has a complex system
 of conduct. In addition, organizations are increasingly establishing codes of ethics for internal use with about 93% of U.S. firms having such codes in place in 1992 (Berenbeim, 1992). Unfortunately, many of these codes are either very general statements which are difficult for workers to translate into individual situations or, in some cases the ethical statements are viewed by workers with a certain denial of responsibility (Harrington, 1996). As a result, gaining understanding of ethical issues is best accomplished through the use of scenarios. These scenarios must be specific and engage the participant. Integration of ethics topics This list of ethics topics puts articles relevant to well-known ethical (right and wrong, good and bad) debates and decisions in one place - including practical problems long known in philosophy, and the more abstract subjects in law, politics, and some professions and sciences.  has been recommended for the computer science curriculum (Miller, 1992) and specific approaches for delivery of this content, through scenarios, have been explored within an Information Systems curriculum (Couger, 1989). Both the ACM and DPMA have included ethical issues as a part of their recommended standard curriculum for schools. Students studying under general business or Information Systems Curriculum should be given knowledge about ethics issues.

Computer Science and Information System students will compose our future IT workforce. A survey of ethical attitudes of these students can be used as a proxy for ethical attitudes of entry level IT workers. Previous surveys of business students Slater slat·er  
1. One employed to lay slate surfaces, as on roofs.

2. See pill bug.

3. See sow bug.

Noun 1.
, 1991) have shown that more than one-half of respondents In the context of marketing research, a representative sample drawn from a larger population of people from whom information is collected and used to develop or confirm marketing strategy.  claimed they had engaged in unethical computer activity, including hacking See hack and hacker.  or illegal copying of software. This corresponds with surveys of industry abuse regarding the ownership of intellectual property. Losses for software developers attributable to piracy piracy, robbery committed or attempted on the high seas. It is distinguished from privateering in that the pirate holds no commission from and receives the protection of no nation but usually attacks vessels of all nations.  in 1996 were estimated to be 11.2 billion (SPA/BSA, 1997). This emphasizes the need for continued study of the ethical beliefs and value judgments made by students.


Paradice first evaluated student perceptions based on 12 scenarios (Paradice, 1990). Although the study lacked rigorous statistic statistic,
n a value or number that describes a series of quantitative observations or measures; a value calculated from a sample.


a numerical value calculated from a number of observations in order to summarize them.
 analysis, three motives for ethical behavior were defined. Motives were defined for obligation, opportunities, and intent. Each scenario presented an ethical situation to which MIS and non-MIS students responded. He concluded that MIS students had stronger notions of professional responsibility, and that non-MIS students were more tolerant of software piracy The illegal copying of software for distribution within the organization, or to friends, clubs and other groups, or for duplication and resale. The software industry loses billions of dollars each year to piracy, and although it may seem innocent enough to install an application on a . However, a study by Im and Hartman (1990) was not able to confirm divergent di·ver·gent  
1. Drawing apart from a common point; diverging.

2. Departing from convention.

3. Differing from another: a divergent opinion.

 ethic eth·ic  
a. A set of principles of right conduct.

b. A theory or a system of moral values: "An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain" 
 perceptions between MIS and non-MIS students.

Generally students rated situations concerning opportunity and intent as unethical. However, results were mixed for obligations to clients and companies (Paradice, 1990). This behavior of opportunity and intent was confirmed by Whitman, et. al. with greater statistical rigor rigor /rig·or/ (rig´er) [L.] chill; rigidity.

rigor mor´tis  the stiffening of a dead body accompanying depletion of adenosine triphosphate in the muscle fibers.
. In addition, through a rigorous application of multivariate factor analysis revealed that ethical motives (factors) could be more correctly represented by misuse of corporate resources, illicit Not permitted or allowed; prohibited; unlawful; as an illicit trade; illicit intercourse.

ILLICIT. What is unlawful what is forbidden by the law. Vide Unlawful.
 use of software or software license infringement (Whitman, et. al., 1999).

The mixed results experienced by Paradice were confirmed by Calluzzo and Cante in a survey of graduate and undergraduate students. Students often represented misconceptions Misconceptions is an American sitcom television series for The WB Network for the 2005-2006 season that never aired. It features Jane Leeves, formerly of Frasier, and French Stewart, formerly of 3rd Rock From the Sun.  about ethical and non-ethical behavior in response to questions. Students agreed that behavior was unethical if it was a matter of personal privacy or theft of software. However when the questions concerned property or privacy violations for the enterprise or business, many student responses were neutral when a clear ethical violation occurred (Calluzzo and Cante, 2004). Couger's earlier study (Couger, 1989) had also found that students were indifferent INDIFFERENT. To have no bias nor partiality. 7 Conn. 229. A juror, an arbitrator, and a witness, ought to be indifferent, and when they are not so, they may be challenged. See 9 Conn. 42.  about enterprise piracy.

Ethical perceptions have been found to differ between industry professionals and students. Generally, greater IS experience produced stricter ethical interpretations. Older IS professionals rated situations as unethical where students or younger professionals allowed a more liberal interpretation (Prior, et. al. 2002). Behavior, including the production of software with bugs, or reducing testing efforts to bring a project within time and budget, was considered acceptable and not viewed as unethical by students. This result was confirmed when student responses were compared to those of industry experts (Athey, 1993). Justification for the differential was attributed to lack of experience, student income level, or just that students see this behavior everyday in the business world, and so perceive it as acceptable behavior.

In explaining the student ethical evaluations, studies have used a variety of demographic factors like age, gender, computer experience, academic major or knowledge of programming languages (Whitman, et. al., 1999), income level (Athey, 1993) or just gender (Leventhal, et. al., 1992) Some evidence supports that male and female responses will differ (Leventhal, et. al., 1992). However, the results vary depending on the type of question.


This study examines differences in perceived motivation or intent of an action and how these differences in intent affect student ethical evaluations. Student perceptions of how seriously ethical behavior is breached in a number of scenarios describing unauthorized access to computer systems, or use of computers in the illegal copying/distribution of copyrighted materials are examined. While a number of studies have looked at similar issues, few have rigorously examined how the motivation for the unauthorized access or illegal copying affects our ethical assessment of this behavior.

The focus on intent is created by presenting alternative scenarios in which the type of access or copying is identical, but where the motivation of the individual involved and the use made of the unauthorized access or illegal copies is varied. Scenarios are presented in which the incident of misuse, unauthorized access, or illegal copying is motivated by a variety of factors including--intellectual curiosity, malicious use of resources, obtaining resources for personal use or to support non-profit motivated activities, or obtaining resources for profit. We hypothesize hy·poth·e·size  
v. hy·poth·e·sized, hy·poth·e·siz·ing, hy·poth·e·siz·es
To assert as a hypothesis.

To form a hypothesis.
 that acts motivated by profit or malice will be viewed as more severe breaches of ethics than the same acts performed to satisfy intellectual curiosity or to obtain resources not used for profit.


The question set used is adapted from one developed by Paradice (1990). Paradice defined three motivations for his question set, consisting of obligation, opportunity, and intent. Since the purpose of the study was to identify levels of perceived intent, where intent was judged based on the level of malice, Paradice's questions on the motivation of obligation were deleted Deleted

A security that is no longer included on a specified market. Sometimes referred to as "delisted".

Reasons for delisting include violating regulations, failing to meet financial specifications set out by the stock exchange and going bankrupt.
. Questions from the opportunity motivation were used essentially unchanged and questions from the intent motivation were both extended to provide better clarification of actor intent and supplemented with additional questions relating to software piracy.

A follow-on study applying a rigorous factor analysis to Paradice's question set isolated three specific factors (Whitman, et. al., 1999). These ethical factors were defined as software license infringement, illicit use (writing and disseminating dis·sem·i·nate  
v. dis·sem·i·nat·ed, dis·sem·i·nat·ing, dis·sem·i·nates
1. To scatter widely, as in sowing seed.

 viruses or causing a system crash), and misuse of corporate resources. To ensure comprehensive coverage of these factors affecting ethical decision Real life ethical decisions are studied in sociology and political science and psychology using very different methods than descriptive ethics in ethics (philosophy). Not ethics proper  making, this question set was mapped to these factors replacing the original motivations defined by Paradice. Questions 1 and 2 map to misuse of corporate resources, 3 and 4 map to illicit use, and 5, 6 and 7 map to license infringement.

The nature of the software referred to in each question (Word processing word processing, use of a computer program or a dedicated hardware and software package to write, edit, format, and print a document. Text is most commonly entered using a keyboard similar to a typewriter's, although handwritten input (see pen-based computer) and  vs. Web Bots) was also changed to reflect the timeframe of this study, since the original work was created nearly 15 years ago. In addition, we have systematically increased the number of alternative scenarios in which the type of unauthorized access or license infringement was the same but the motive and type of use differed.

This survey was administered to students in a junior level management information systems (MIS) course at an AACSB accredited accredited

recognition by an appropriate authority that the performance of a particular institution has satisfied a prestated set of criteria.

accredited herds
cattle herds which have achieved a low level of reactors to, e.g.
 school of business which includes an outside ethics course in addition to ethics content included throughout the business core courses. The survey was administered across multiple sections serving different populations. One section, with 30 respondents, was an on-line section whose students were predominantly pre·dom·i·nant  
1. Having greatest ascendancy, importance, influence, authority, or force. See Synonyms at dominant.

 participants in a web-based undergraduate degree “First degree” redirects here. For the BBC television series, see First Degree.

An undergraduate degree (sometimes called a first degree or simply a degree
 program for students with community college degrees relating to information technology. The remaining sections, with 37 respondents, were open to all business majors and were taught in face-to-face mode with supplemental materials, including the survey, provided online.

It seems reasonable to assume that the students in the on-line section were, in general, more sophisticated in their knowledge and experience with the use of computer systems, but would this affect their ethical perspectives. Greater knowledge of potential abuses in computer systems might make students more sensitive to the dangers of abusing computer privileges, and the fact that many of the students in the online course were headed for IT related careers might make them more sensitive to the codes of ethics and professional obligations relating to computer use. For these reasons we hypothesize that the students in the on-line section for students pursuing IT related careers will tend to view the ethical breaches in each of the scenarios as more severe than the general business students in the face-to-face sections. Comparisons between the two types of students are presented in the last empirical results sub-section below.

Survey Questions asked respondents to rate the behavior described in each scenario on a 7 point, centered, Likert scale. The response choices presented were 1) very ethical, 2) ethical, 3) somewhat ethical, 4) questionable, 5) somewhat unethical, 6) unethical, and 7) very unethical. Seven fundamental ethical scenarios were presented. However, variations with modification in the motivation for the action described were presented for most of the scenarios leading to a total of 19 questions. Two of the base scenarios and 4 total questions dealt with instances of misuse of corporate computer resources, Two base scenarios and 5 questions dealt with instances of illicit use of (unauthorized access to) computer resources. Finally, three base scenarios and 10 questions dealt with aspects of illegal copying and/or distribution of copyrighted software or digitized music. The questions used are listed in the heading area of each table of survey results presented below. In describing these empirical results, we will cover the scenarios, by category, in the order described above.


In the tables of results presented below, the distribution of responses across the whole survey group (67 observations) is presented along with an indication of the percentage of respondents selecting each response. The median response is also indicated by that response being shown in bold faced type.

Likert scales provide data that are ordinal (mathematics) ordinal - An isomorphism class of well-ordered sets.  in nature. Although Likert scale data has often been analyzed an·a·lyze  
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.

 using statistics designed for cardinal data, it is more appropriate to use nonparametric statistical tests that are valid for ordinal data (Classon clas·son  
Either of two massless bosons, the photon and the graviton, that are quanta of the two classical fields, electromagnetic and gravitational. See Table at subatomic particle.
 and Dormody, 1994).

In the results presented below, the single sample Wilcoxin signed-ranks test for differences in paired responses is used to assess differences in response across scenarios posing the same action but with variations in the motivation for the action. Given that the data were coded so that a 1 means very ethical and a 7 means very unethical, a positive value for the signed rank statistic S means that respondents believed the first item in the pair to be less ethical than the second. Thus, for instance, the substantial negative value for the S statistic in the comparison of Question 1A with Question 1B in Table 1 indicates that respondents believe that the student's actions in finding the security loophole A vulnerability in software, typically in the operating system, that enables an attacker to compromise the system. See vulnerability.  represented less of an ethical breach than the student's actions in using the loophole to access other students' records. The probability that the observed S value could have occurred when there is no difference in the population's rankings of the two items is shown in parentheses below each S value and results that are significant at the .05 level are indicated by an asterisk (1) See Asterisk PBX.

(2) In programming, the asterisk or "star" symbol (*) means multiplication. For example, 10 * 7 means 10 multiplied by 7. The * is also a key on computer keypads for entering expressions using multiplication.
 in the table results presented here.

Misuse of Corporate Resources

The first scenario of misuse of corporate resources presented is the one summarized in Table 1. A student finds a loophole in the security of a university computer system. The alternative scenarios assess the ethics of the student in finding the loophole, and in using it to access private information of other students. On average, respondents found the student's action in finding the loophole somewhat unethical, but found his or her action in exploiting the loophole, scenario B, significantly more unethical. Scenario C under this question deals with the actions of the administrator of the system that was breached, and the obligation to protect users for breaches of privacy. Respondents on average felt that the response of the system administrator was of questionable ethics, but felt that it was significantly less unethical than the actions of the student in accessing other students' records.

Table 2 presents a single scenario of a programmer (1) A hardware device used to customize a programmable logic chip such as a PAL, GAL, EPROM, etc. See PROM programmer.

(2) A person who designs the logic for and writes the lines of codes of a computer program.
 at a bank modifying an accounting information system to avoid a service charge on his personal account. Respondents on average found this behavior unethical with a near majority finding it very unethical.

Illicit Use of Computer Resources

Table 3 presents results for a scenario in which a manager of a company subscribes to online services provided by a competing company. Two alternatives of this scenario have the manager using information she obtained to identify sales prospects in one case and to attempt to crash the competitors on-line system in the alternative scenario. On average respondents felt that using the competitor's own system to identify prospects was unethical while using it to crash the competitor's system was overwhelmingly viewed as very unethical.

Table 4 presents a set of scenarios about a programmer installing "bots" on vulnerable computers on the internet and using them in a variety of ways. In the first alternative he uses the bots to launch a denial of service attack An assault on a network that floods it with so many additional requests that regular traffic is either slowed or completely interrupted. Unlike a virus or worm, which can cause severe damage to databases, a denial of service attack interrupts network service for some period.  against the web site of a company that he believes engages in exploitive behavior. In the second scenario, he simply uses the bots for his own amusement to calculate the value of Pi. Finally in the third scenario he ultimately uses the bots to extort To compel or coerce, as in a confession or information, by any means serving to overcome the other's power of resistance, thus making the confession or admission involuntary. To gain by wrongful methods; to obtain in an unlawful manner, as in to compel payments by means of threats of  money for personal gain.

Not surprisingly, respondents overwhelming found the use of the bots for personal gain to be very unethical and found this behavior more unethical than the other 2 scenarios. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that, when the target of a denial of service attack was a company thought to engage in exploitive practices, respondents did not feel that use of the bots in a denial of service attack was less ethical than just using them for personal amusement.

Illegal Copying and Distribution

Three base scenarios of illegal copying and or distribution of copyrighted materials are presented here with variations involving differences in how widely the materials are distributed and whether profit is involved. The first scenario involves improper copying and use of computer software, while the remaining scenarios deal with downloading or copying copyrighted music.

Table 5 presents 3 variations of a scenario in which a student with a legal license to use a software package for educational purposes retained that software in violation of the license agreement after graduation Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the associated ceremony. The date of event is often called degree day. The event itself is also called commencement, convocation or invocation. . In one alternative she used the software to support work for a charitable organization This article is about charitable organizations. For other uses of the word charity, see Charity.
A charitable organization (also known as a charity) is an organization with charitable purposes only.
, in another she used it for personal and job search activities, and in the third she used it in a for-profit company. The median response to the charitable and personal uses was that these uses were somewhat unethical. However, respondents felt that use of the software in a for-profit venture was more unethical than the other uses. The median response indicated this behavior was believed to be unethical and about a quarter of the respondents felt it to be highly unethical.

Table 6 presents a set of scenarios relating to use and distribution of software illegally copied from a web site. Alternatives involving keeping the music for personal use, providing copies to friends, providing copies for no gain on the web, and selling copies of the downloaded music for personal gain were evaluated by respondents. Evaluation of the median responses and results of the signed-rank test indicate that our survey respondents felt that each of these activities involved progressively greater violations of ethics. Respondents overwhelmingly found the sale of such downloaded music for profit to be very unethical. In fact the proportion of respondents finding this behavior very unethical was the highest of that for any of the scenarios and alternatives presented in this study.

Table 7 presents scenarios similar to those of Table 6, except that here the music was originally purchased legally and was performed by a local band. Alternatives involving distribution to a few friends, making the music available to any one on the internet with no personal gain, and copying and selling the CD for personal gain were evaluated by respondents. Once again our respondents found each of these scenarios to represent successively greater breaches of ethics. While the majority of respondents found sale of the copied CDs to be very unethical, it is interesting that respondent In Equity practice, the party who answers a bill or other proceeding in equity. The party against whom an appeal or motion, an application for a court order, is instituted and who is required to answer in order to protect his or her interests.  tended to view each of the alternatives in Table 7 as slight less severe violations of ethics than the corresponding alternatives presented in Table 6. Evidently, the fact that the copy was initially obtained by illegal means made respondents more critical of further uses of the music.

Comparisons Among Groups

As noted above the survey was completed both by a set of general business majors and by a separable sep·a·ra·ble  
Possible to separate: separable sheets of paper.

 set of students who were predominantly IS related majors in an on-line class. To see if these groups differed, we tested for differences in response between the predominantly IS student on-line section and the face-to-face sections consisting of general business majors. In this assessment, we treated the two types of sections as independent samples and performed a Chi-Square test for differences between the two samples. Results of the Chi-Square test are recorded as a Z-statistic where, for the given sample size, values greater than two generally indicate that the mean responses of the two groups are different using the standard .05 probability level for rejecting the null hypothesis null hypothesis,
n theoretical assumption that a given therapy will have results not statistically different from another treatment.

null hypothesis,
 of equality. The samples were ordered in a manner that causes the Z-statistic to be negative when the students in the on-line, IS oriented o·ri·ent  
1. Orient The countries of Asia, especially of eastern Asia.

a. The luster characteristic of a pearl of high quality.

b. A pearl having exceptional luster.

 program rated the behavior in a scenario as less ethical than the class of general business majors. Chi-Square test results that are significant at the .05 level are also indicated by an asterisk.

The results shown in table 8 suggest that the differences between the two groups are of only modest magnitude. While the sign of the Z-statistic indicates that the online, IS oriented, students were usually more negative in their ratings of behavior in nearly every scenario, the differences were only statistically significant in 3 of 20 cases. It is interesting that the statistically significant values all came in the variant variant /var·i·ant/ (var´e-ant)
1. something that differs in some characteristic from the class to which it belongs.

2. exhibiting such variation.

 of a given scenario that was viewed as least unethical. It appears that perhaps IS oriented students are less tolerant of modest breaches of ethics, while both groups find more serious breaches equally egregious e·gre·gious  
Conspicuously bad or offensive. See Synonyms at flagrant.

[From Latin


This paper presents the results of a survey of ethical attitudes among undergraduate business majors and IS majors. Students evaluated various scenarios related to the use of computer systems by individuals. These scenarios presented the student with a number of varying degrees of activity that could be judged in terms of their level of ethical or unethical activity. The judgment made by the student was on a scale of Very Ethical to Very Unethical with five levels in between. Sixty seven students participated in the survey.

The results of the survey are summarized in Table 9. The table shows the median ranking for each activity and also the score for the test for differences between the different activities for each scenario--statistically significant values are italicized. The median rank for all activities is in the range of somewhat unethical to very unethical. The results show that the intent of an individual engaging in the activity does alter the students' perception of the level of ethical behavior. Personal use of software, or downloads was judged more as being just somewhat unethical as was hacking into a computer system for reasons of intellectual curiosity. Malicious activity (scenarios 1, 2, 3 and 4) however, was judged primarily in the unethical to very unethical range. Accessing other peoples records, changing code for personal gain, and causing reduced response time on company PCs was judged to be in the unethical to very unethical range. However, causing reduced response time for a company that was believed to exploit its workers and was unfriendly to the environment was viewed no more negatively than the same activity performed without malicious intent. Sharing illegal copies with others was seen as less ethical than just personal use of such copies, and profiting from the illegal reproduction of music CD was overwhelmingly judged to be highly unethical. Very little difference was observed between the IS and general business groups of students. It appeared the IS students were a little less tolerant of modest breaches of ethics.

Further research should be done using other populations of students, industry users, and non industry home users to see if there are differences in attitudes among different types of users. Also, future research should examine the effects of ethics curriculum and the use of codes of ethics by conductive conductive

having the quality of readily conducting electric current.

conductive flooring
flooring or floor covering made specially conductive to electrical current, usually by the inclusion of copper wiring that is earthed
 comparative studies of students before and after exposure to ethics instruction.


Support for this study was provided by a grant from NAU's E-Learning Center


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Pearson, J.M., L. Crosby, and J. P. Shim A small piece of software that is added to an existing system program or protocol in order to provide some enhancement.

(jargon, memory management) shim - A small piece of data inserted in order to achieve a desired memory alignment or other addressing property.
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Address: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
, Institute for Research on Management Information Systems, Minneapolis, MN.

Whitman, M.E., A. M. Townsend, and A. R. Hendrickson (1999).Cross-national Differences in Computer-use Ethics: A Nine-country Study, Journal of International Business Studies JIBS, the Journal of International Business Studies, (ISSN: 0047-2506, eISSN: 1478-6990) is the official publication of the Academy of International Business (AIB) and is published by Palgrave Macmillan.  30(4), 673.

Alden C. Lorents, Northern Arizona University Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a public university in Flagstaff, Arizona in the United States.

As of Fall 2007, the university has 21,352 students, 13,989 of these are situated in the main Flagstaff campus<ref name="Enrollment" />.

Jo Mae Maris, Northern Arizona University

James N. Morgan, Northern Arizona University

Gregory L. Neal, Northern Arizona University
Table 1

A student suspected and found a loophole in the university computer's
security system that allowed him to access other students' records. He
told the system administrator about the loophole, but continued to
access others' records until the problem was corrected 2 weeks later.

A. The student's action in searching for the loophole was

B. The student's action in continuing to access others' records
for 2 weeks was

C. The system administrator's failure to correct the problem
sooner was

                       A                B

                     Count    Pct.    Count     Pct.

Very Ethical           2      2.99      0       0.00
Ethical               10     14.93      0       0.00
Somewhat Ethical       5      7.46      2       2.99
Questionable          12     17.91      0       0.00
Somewhat Unethical     5      7.46      2       2.99
Unethical             14     20.90     16      23.88
Very Unethical        19     28.36     47      70.15


Paired Signed                        S-Stat.    p-H0
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs. --                    -351.5    (<.001), 0
Scenario B vs. -


                       Count      Pct.

Very Ethical             0        0.00
Ethical                  2        2.99
Somewhat Ethical         1        1.49
Questionable            29       43.28
Somewhat Unethical      12       17.91
Unethical               10       14.93
Very Unethical          13       19.40


Paired Signed        S-Stat.      p-H0
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs. --      -16       -0.87
Scenario B vs. --     571.5    (<.001), 0

Table 2

A programmer at a bank realized that he had accidentally overdrawn his
checking account. He made a small adjustment in the bank's accounting
system so that his account would not have an additional service charge
assigned. As soon as he made a deposit that made his balance positive
again, he corrected the bank's accounting system.

                     Count    Pct.

Very Ethical           1      1.49
Ethical                2      2.99
Somewhat Ethical       4      5.97
Questionable           2      2.99
Somewhat Unethical     5      7.46
Unethical             26     38.81
Very Unethical        27     40.30

Table 3

A manager of a company that sells computer processing services bought
similar services from a competitor. She used the service for over a
year and always paid her bills promptly.

A. She used her access to the competitor's computer to try to break
the security system and cause the system to "crash."

B. She used her access to the competitor's computer to identify other
customers, and used this information to identify sales prospects.

                         A                B

                       Count    Pct.    Count       Pct.

Very Ethical             0      0.00      1         1.49
Ethical                  1      1.49      2         2.99
Somewhat Ethical         1      1.49      5         7.46
Questionable             2      2.99     10        14.93
Somewhat Unethical       5      7.46     13        19.40
Unethical               14     20.90     19        28.36
Very Unethical          44     65.67     17        25.37
Paired Signed Ranks                    S-Stat.      p-H0
  Test for
Scenario A vs.                         428.00    (<.001), 0
  Scenario B

Table 4

Dilbert develops a set of programs that allow him to find vulnerable
computers on the internet and install "bots" on them. These bots can
be controlled by Dilbert to initiate e-mail from each computer
infected with a "bot."

A. Dilbert uses these bots to flood the site of a corporation that is
widely believed to have exploitive labor and environmental practices,
causing the businesses web site to be unavailable for several hours.
The bots cause no other damage to the affected systems and are not
used for any other purposes. Dilbert's behavior is

B. Dilbert uses these bots to take over the infected PCs when they are
not in use and use these computing resources to help him calculate the
value of PI 8 billion decimal places. His bots cause no damage to the
infected systems and never operate when there are not idle resources.
Dilbert's behavior is

C. Dilbert uses these bots to flood the site of an online business for
several hours. He then demands that this business pay $50,000 to an
"offshore" untraceable account and threatens to repeat the attack
until the business makes this payment. Dilbert's behavior is

                       A                  B

                     Count     Pct.     Count   Pct.

Very Ethical           1       1.49       0     0.00
Ethical                1       1.49       1     1.49
Somewhat Ethical       2       2.99       3     4.48
Questionable          10      14.93       8    11.94
Somewhat Unethical     7      10.45       6     8.96
Unethical             22      32.84      28    41.79
Very Unethical        24      35.82      21    31.34


Paired Signed                S-Stat.    p-H0
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.                         -24.5   -0.56
Scenario B vs.


                      Count       Pct.

Very Ethical            1         1.49
Ethical                 1         1.49
Somewhat Ethical        3         4.48
Questionable            2         2.99
Somewhat Unethical      1         1.49
Unethical               8        11.94
Very Unethical         51        76.12


Paired Signed        S-Stat.      p-H0
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.       -214.5    (<.001), 0
Scenario B vs.        -247     (<.001), 0

Table 5

A student legally obtained a copy of a popular word processing software
package. The software license agreement allowed use "for educational
purposes only" and required the student to remove the software from her
computer once she was no longer a student. She kept the word processing
software on her computer after graduation and used it

A. to support her volunteer work for a charitable organization.
Her Behavior was

B. for personal correspondence and job search activities.
Her Behavior was

C. in support of a for-profit business services company that she
developed. Her behavior was

                       A                B

                     Count    Pct.    Count        Pct.

Very Ethical           4      5.97      5          7.46
Ethical                3      4.48      2          2.99
Somewhat Ethical       4      5.97      6          8.96
Questionable          21     31.34     19         28.36
Somewhat Unethical    16     23.88     18         26.87
Unethical             14     20.90     14         20.90
Very Unethical         5      7.46      3          4.48


Paired Signed                        S-Stat.   p-[H.sub.0]
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.                        -2.00       -0.97
Scenario B vs.


                      Count       Pct.

Very Ethical            2         2.99
Ethical                 1         1.49
Somewhat Ethical        3         4.48
Questionable           10        14.93
Somewhat Unethical     15        22.39
Unethical              20        29.85
Very Unethical         16        23.88


Paired Signed        S-Stat.   p-[H.sub.0]
  Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.        -290     (<.001), 0
Scenario B vs.       -305.5    (<.001), 0

Table 6

Andy downloads a copy of a CD by a famous artist recorded on a major
record label from an illegal site.

A. He keeps this music on his own PC and MP3 player.
B. Andy's behavior is

B. He sends copies of this music to 3 of his friends.
Andy's behavior is

C. He makes copies of this music available (for free) to anyone
requesting them on the web. Andy's behavior is

D. He makes copies of this music on a CD and sells them.
Andy's behavior is

                   A                B                      C

                 Count    Pct.    Count       Pct.       Count

Very Ethical       4      5.97      3         4.48          3
Ethical            2      2.99      1         1.49          2
Somewhat           4      5.97      1         1.49          2
Questionable      14     20.90      8        11.94          4
Somewhat          12     17.91     11        16.42          7
Unethical         16     23.88     17        25.37         21
Very Unethical    15     22.39     26        38.81         30

                                    B                      C

Paired Signed                    S-Stat.      p-H0      S-Stat.
Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.                   -300.00   (<.001), 0    -367
Scenario B vs.                                           -85.5
Scenario C vs.

                    C                       D
                  Count        Pct.       Count       Pct.

Very Ethical        3          4.48         1         1.49
Ethical             2          2.99         0         0.00
Somewhat            2          2.99         1         1.49
Questionable        4          5.97         1         1.49
Somewhat            7         10.45         2         2.99
Unethical           21        31.34         8        11.94
Very Unethical      30        44.78        54        80.60

                    C                       D

Paired Signed    S-Stat.       p-H0      S-Stat.     p - H0
Ranks Test for
Scenario A vs.     -367     (<.001), 0    -580     (<.001), 0
Scenario B vs.    -85.5      0.00, 0      -315     (<.001), 0
Scenario C vs.                              S      (<.001), 0

Table 7

At a concert, Mandy buys a copy of a CD self produced by a local band.

A. She makes electronic copies of this music and sends them to 3 of her
friends. Mandy's behavior is

B. She makes copies of this music available (for free) to anyone
requesting them on the web. Mandy's behavior is

C. She makes copies of this music on a CD and sells them. Mandy's
behavior is

                        A                B

                      Count   Pct.     Count

Very Ethical            2      2.99       2
Ethical                 5      7.46       3
Somewhat Ethical        3      4.48       5
Questionable           22     32.84      16
Somewhat Unethical     11     16.42       8
Unethical              18     26.87      18
Very Unethical          6      8.96      15
Paired Signed Ranks                   S- Stat.
Test for
Scenario A vs.--                      -180.00
Scenario B vs.--


                       Pct.      Count        Pct.

Very Ethical            2.99        1         1.49
Ethical                 4.48        0         0.00
Somewhat Ethical        7.46        0         0.00
Questionable           23.88        3         4.48
Somewhat Unethical     11.94        4         5.97
Unethical              26.87       18        26.87
Very Unethical         22.39       41        61.19
Paired Signed Ranks   p - H0    S- Stat.     p - H0
Test for
Scenario A vs.--      0.00, 0     -733     (<.001), 0
Scenario B vs.--                  -564     (<.001), 0

Table 8: Chi-Square Tests for Differences in Ethical Valuations
Between IS Students and General Business Majors


                A         B         C         D

             Z-Value   Z-Value   Z-Value   Z-Value

Scenario 1   -2.00 *   -1.01      -1.43
Scenario 2    0.49
Scenario 3    0.16     -2.46 *
Scenario 4   -0.49     -0.42      -1.17
Scenario 5   -1.47     -0.99      -1.08
Scenario 6   -1.50     -1.41      -1.47     -0.91
Scenario 7   -2.54 *   -1.54      -0.39

Table 9: Summary Results

Scenario                                    M      B      C      D

1. Loophole in Computer System
  A. Student searches for loophole          su   -351    -16
  B. Student accesses other student's       vu           571
  C. System Administrator fails to          su
    correct problem on a timely basis
2. Company manager using a competitors
similar services
  A. Tries to break security system to      vu    428
    cause competitors system to crash
  B. Used access to identify customers      u
    for sales prospect
3. Programmer at bank makes change in
code to eliminate a fee
  Code is changed back to original as       u
    soon as the balance is updated
4. Population of "bots" on computers
using the Internet
  A. Causes a website of a company with     u     -24   -214
    questionable labor and environmental
    practices to be unavailable for a few
  B. Causes infected PCs in companies to    u           -247
    calculate Pi to 8 billion decimals
    when those PCs have idle resources
  C. Causes degraded service of an online   vu
    site for hours and demands a ransom
    to remove the "bots"
5. Student's use of software for
educational use only
  A. Uses the software as a volunteer for   su   -200   -290
    charitable organizations
  B. Uses the software for correspondence   su          -305
    and job search activities
  C. Uses the software for a for-profit     u
    business services company she started
6. Download of a music CD by a famous
artist on a major record label
  A. Uses the music on personal PC and      su   -300   -367   -580
    MP3 player
  B. Sends copies of music to 3 friends     u            -85   -315
  C. Makes copies of music available to     u                  -253
    anyone accessing his website
  D. Makes copies on CDs and sells them     vu
7. Purchase of CD sold by a local band
  A. Makes copies on CD to give to          u    -180   -733
  B. Sends copies on CD to anyone           u           -564
    requesting the CD on her website
  C. Makes copies on CD and sells them      vu

Column M--Median response (Very Ethical, Ethical, Somewhat Ethical,
Questionable, Somewhat Unethical, Unethical, Very Unethical

Columns B, C, D--Wilcoxin signed-rank value for differences in paired
responses. Example: 1A (minus value) is much less of an ethical breach
compared to 1B. 1A and 1C are about the same. 1B (plus value) is much
more of an ethical breach as compared to 1C.
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Author:Lorents, Alden C.; Maris, Jo Mae; Morgan, James N.; Neal, Gregory L.
Publication:Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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