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Hacking could now lead to life in prison.
February 27, 2002 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Hacking could now lead to life in prison. Someone that kills someone you love would get less time in prison than what they are proposing for this hacker legislation. Is this punishment just for this crime?
posted by bump (14 comments total)

 
It should read "someone who kills." grr.
posted by bump at 9:29 AM on February 27, 2002


A murder is a threat to the very lives of you and the person you love.

A cracker is a threat to... businesses, corporations and peoples' sources of income!

On a completely unrelated note, I heard somewhere that corporations contribute money to political campaigns. That's wacky!

I'm not saying I condone crackers. I loathe them, but a cracker is no killer (in most cases). The punishment should fit the crime.
posted by tomorama at 9:40 AM on February 27, 2002


Well, way to be inflammatory, bump. Is all hacking the same? Is breaking into your cubicle neighbor's windows 98 by pressing "escape" at the password prompt the equivalent of crashing the central air traffic control system?

The legislation is for "computer intrusions that 'recklessly' put others' lives at risk", according to this article, and I think that's reasonable. Granted, a life term may be excessive for reckless behavior that doesn't result in injury or death to anyone, but it's clearly only the maximum penalty.

The actual legislation reads:
if the offender knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury from conduct in violation of subsection (a)(5)(A)(i), a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both; and if the offender knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause death from conduct in violation of subsection (a)(5)(A)(i), a fine under this title or imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or both.

This properly focusses the attention on the scale and effect of the hacking, not on some moronic "hacking == bad" construction.
posted by dhartung at 9:41 AM on February 27, 2002


dhartung: Going back and re-reading the post, you are right, and I should have toned it down a bit. I am just frustrated that there is a lack of balance in the weight of crimes and their punishments. One need only look to the "war on drugs" to see this erosion take place. I certainly did not mean to imply that hacking wasn't bad, and I don't condone black hat hacking in any way shape or form.

It would seem to me that intentionally recklessly endangering the lives of someone, whether it is with a gun, a car, or a computer should be the same crime, and carry the same punishment.


Also from the same article:

Another section of CSEA would permit Internet providers to disclose the contents of e-mail messages and other electronic communication to police in cases where the companies believe -- "in good faith" -- that the danger of death or physical injury exists.

I wonder aloud that it sounds like this leaves the judgment call of whether something is dangerous in the hands of the ISP.
posted by bump at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2002


Hmmm.

Why would a new law be needed?

Murder is murder. Reckless endangerment is reckless endangerment. Theft is theft. Vandalism is vandalism.

Charge people under laws already on the books. For heaven's sake, this country needs new laws like it needs another 10,000 ambulance-chasing lawyers.
posted by dissent at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2002


I agree with dissent on this one. For example: There is not a single person in the IRS that knows all of the rules and regulations of the organization, and yet they expect us to comply with them. The law is entirely too complex, and law and justice are often two very separate things. The government is too big, and is in need of a huge reform.
posted by banished at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2002


This is just an argument over rules of evidence and the level of intent. The original version of the bill differed in one key way:
CSEA's original language said in cases where miscreants knowingly attempt "to cause death or serious bodily injury" through electronic means, the punishment would be life imprisonment.
The stronger version allows recklessness to be used as well. The Model Penal Code (ยง2.02) defines these two types of culpability thusly:
(b) Knowingly. A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:
(i) if the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendance circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of the nature or that such circumstances exist; and
(ii) if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result. "
versus
(c) Recklessly. A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and justifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor's situation.
Of course, this may seem like an extremely important distinction to the masses, but considering that this is only worded as it relates to causing death or serious bodily injury, I seriously doubt this will be a widely used provision. Put another way, if someone hacks into a hospital computer and makes a bank of automatic insulin pumps go nuts, killing a dozen people, I for one would want there to be an effective statutory tool to punish such a criminal.
posted by norm at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2002


I don't have a problem with laws that outlaw hacking as a violation of someone else's property(that should be prosecutable under existing laws), but the government has gone overboard in some pretty damn unconstitutional ways. I guess they only care about the constitution when it suits their own ends. Is that why Kevin Mitnick was held in jail for 5 years without a trial by the feds?
posted by insomnyuk at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2002


"Put another way, if someone hacks into a hospital computer and makes a bank of automatic insulin pumps go nuts, killing a dozen people, I for one would want there to be an effective statutory tool to punish such a criminal."

There already is one. Its called murder.
posted by keithl at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2002


There already is one. Its called murder.

See, you THINK that. As my previous point was attempting to express, this is an evidentiary rule; the language used is to make the actual intended act correspond with the type of means used to remove ambiguity and aid prosecutors in the type of case I outlined. More to the point, most states' murder statutes require a purposeful or knowing standard for intent, and the new bill here allows recklessness as well. Also, this creates a federal criminal statute which is broader in scope and uniform across the whole country. So it does deliver unique advantages over most statutory tools currently in existence.
posted by norm at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2002


I really doubt that if someone were to hack into a hospital and somehow kill patients that prosecutors would be unable to try and convict on murder charges. Can you post some links where people who have committed murder or other acts such as you depict and were unable to be prosecuted for murder?

'm not trying to argue the letter of the law. I'm saying that
I really doubt that someone could commit such an act and not be tried and convicted for murder.

And I don't think we need any more laws to cover things like this. In his age of mass imprisonment (war on drugs etc) I don't think prosecutors need any more 'aid'. They seem to be doing quite well.
posted by keithl at 1:17 PM on February 27, 2002


Okay fine I can see how endangering people's lives could get you life in prison, if that was the specific intent. But the fact is, this should be a none issue. If I am hooked up to some machine keeping me alive, I don't want it connected to the WWW. Airport traffic systems on vulnerable lines of communication?? Doesn't that strike you as idiotic??
posted by Settle at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2002


This just makes me glad I got all the cracking out of my system when I was younger. When I got caught then, it was a stern visit from men in cheap suits. Now... I fear to contemplate what the results would be.

Though I hardly thought then (nor do I think now) that what I did was a crime, I know that others - especially the feds - think that anything involving the unexplored arts of hacking/cracking MUST be evil. (I hacked together the tools that I used to crack the passwd file, a distinction lost on most people.)

I can only hope that some day, people will overcome the rampant technophobia that blurs the line of distinction between hobby and harm. Until then, I'll just stick to my harmless MP3s.

Until THAT carries the threat of life in prison.
posted by phalkin at 6:25 PM on February 27, 2002


More to the point, most states' murder statutes require a purposeful or knowing standard for intent, and the new bill here allows recklessness as well.

But...aren't there already crimes that cover the spectrum between 1st degree murder and having a total accident...like, 2nd degree murder, degrees of manslaughter, and reckless endangerment?
posted by bingo at 7:08 PM on February 27, 2002


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