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Death Penalty For Hackers?

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the you-can't-make-that-stuff-up dept.

Security 1096

EMIce writes "The New York Times Op-Ed page has a piece entitled Worse Than Death (Obnoxious but free registration required) that calls for harsher 'hacker' penalties as a deterrent, quoting one academic as recommending even well, the death penalty - as a deterrent for the likes of Sasser author Sven Jaschan. Let's face it, businesses are becoming more dependent on their computers but they continue to be a point of failure, and subsequently, frustration through lost profits. Perpetrated breakdowns are now pushing that aggravation towards an edge. The author suggests commuting the idea of a death sentence into a lifetime of servitude doing viral cleanup. What role should enforcement play in such cases and is this too harsh, even considering the billions in damage that is sometimes caused?"

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Look, out, John... (3, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042108)

Somone call John Dvorak...his title as reigning champion of the blithering idiots is being seriously contested.

Just who is this John Tierney [nytimes.com] , anyway? Judging from his whining about 'man-years I've spent running virus scans and reformatting hard drives', he doesn't sound like any computer profesional I know...perhaps if he was a bit more in the know, he'd know that although Microsoft had released a patch for this loophole on 13 and 28 April 2004, many companies had not applied this protection before Sasser struck. [bbc.co.uk] Perhaps some of Mr. Tierney's considerable ire should be redirected towards the hordes of lazy sysadmins who had a solution for the Sasser worm, but chose complacency over vigilance.

Re:Look, out, John... (0, Troll)

robyannetta (820243) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042185)

'man-years I've spent running virus scans and reformatting hard drives'

You wouldn't have that problem if you were running Linux like the rest of us.

I agree. The very idea of such a penalty is evil (5, Insightful)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042198)

That punishment doesn't fit the crime. In many ways our justice system makes victims out of the perpetrators of crimes when the punishment is way out of proportion to the actual crime committed. When that happens, the justice system is perpetrating an injustice on the person found guilty in court.

I don't like how some people think that just because someone is obnoxious or causes minor damage (and let's face it, virus infestations are fairly minor compared to the gamut of actual crimes that people are let off the hook with much less punishment) that they should be put away for ever or even put to death. I think it reeks of a completely blown sense of proportion. Unfortunately, the voters who think this way are more prone to vote than people who are more sanely-minded.

Should the punishment for releasing a virus be tough? I don't think so. I think that it is a pretty benign "crime". It is crucial that we keep a sense of proportion when discussing the sentencing stage of justice.

Re:Look, out, John... (3, Insightful)

drakaan (688386) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042231)

Time to play Devil's Advocate...

Not wanting to install a patch to a production server is not necessarily complacency. In point of fact, in some cases, it *is* vigilance, assuming you've ever installed a patch and seen software mysteriously and suddeny cease functioning...it happens on Windows servers from time to time, if you didn't know.

To be fair, most of the companies that didn't install the patch for a reason like that probably made sure the systems were protected in other ways. Just couldn't let the "no install patch" = "lazy complacent sysadmin" generalization go unqualified.

his bio isn't hard to find (1, Redundant)

bobalu (1921) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042268)

He's NOT a computer professional, he's an Op-Ed columnist. That would be why his opinion is on the NYT Op-Ed page. He has a background in science writing among other things.

Here's the oh-so-hard-to-find bio for you savvy computer professionals:

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/opinion/tierney-bio.htm l [nytimes.com]

Personally I think cutting off one hand would help quite a bit. It'd slow 'em down at least the next time.

Re:Look, out, John... (4, Insightful)

DShard (159067) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042271)

I see this as yet another fundemental misunderstanding of what security _is_ and how the proposed fix doesn't address the real problem in the least. As you correctly point out, admins and users are at fault here. The internet is a snapshot of society that has no boundaries. Anything that would happen in the real world will happen online. If purposeful defacement and destruction of property cannot be contained in the real world, nor will it online. Does the statement, "We should put to death people who create griffiti." even sound slightly rational?

And how about... (2, Funny)

de Bois-Guilbert (807304) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042109)

...public floggings of idiots that don't sufficiently protect/firewall their computers!

Phrack? (4, Funny)

sleepingsquirrel (587025) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042114)

Ahh. That explains the demise of Phrack [slashdot.org] I guess.

oh, this is an easy one (1)

ferrocene (203243) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042116)

Death by pop-up.

Or pop-under...

Easy. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042120)

No amount of money loss is worth a loss of someones life.

Indeed, there can be no crime for which the death of an individual can be justified.

Otherwise pure hypocrisy rules.

Re:Easy. (1)

raolin (512968) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042259)

Amen. I am against the death penalty entirely, but even going on the assumption that it is justified I do not see where a crime could warrant the death penalty without having caused death.

I confess though that I am not sure what hypocrisy the above post is referencing. It is a matter of the value placed on human life, and if a lesser value is being assumed, there is no hypocrisy. Tragedy, yes.

The issue should be judged on the same standard as any other crime. I am not sure why the matter was even brought up. It is a crime, you judge the effects, you consider the intent, and you work out the penalty no differently than any other violation of the law.

Eeek! (2)

Tagren (715283) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042121)

The death penalty should not even exist for murders/rapist/horrible-crime*!!

My own opinion...

Re:Eeek! (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042199)

>> The death penalty should not even exist for murders/rapist/horrible-crime*!!

What if someone raped your child or SO? If you still feel the same way then you're a better person then I.

Re:Eeek! (1)

Tagren (715283) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042273)

I cant answer that correctly until it happens. But I sure hopes so.

So hacker gets death... (5, Interesting)

aicrules (819392) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042122)

because he costs companies millions in lost revenue, but CEO of company who commits fraud and loots the pension funds for billions gets nothing or maybe a few years in prison?

Yeah, we're looking at the right places for deterence.

Re:So hacker gets death... (5, Insightful)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042164)

Ahh, but the CEO is rich. Thus, it's okay. Therefore, teenagers get executed and old rich white men take a few billion dollars to support their pure-gold-toilet needs.

Re:So hacker gets death... (-1, Troll)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042246)

Your point would be better if it did not include an example of your racism.

Re:So hacker gets death... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042255)

Yes yes, everything is class struggle/envy. The world would be save by socialism, blah blah blah. Go back to your local party meeting.

Re:So hacker gets death... (4, Funny)

Vinnie_333 (575483) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042283)

Lesson learned: wait until you're a old rich white man before you begin your hacking career!

Re:So hacker gets death... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042277)

Here here. Death to Bernie Ebbers.

Ex Worldcom employee who lost his house, retirement, savings...etc.

Academic (1)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042123)

quoting one academic as recommending even well, the death penalty

Good to see restraint in the discussion. We wouldn't want to lose our heads over this issue!

Re:Academic (0, Troll)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042244)

>> death penalty
> Good to see restraint in the discussion. We wouldn't want to lose our heads over this issue!

Nobody has brought up Nazis yet.

Death Threat? (3, Interesting)

spiderworm (830684) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042124)

Wowsers. Makes me wonder what the punishment would be for the software vendors whose products are virus friendly?

Re:Death Threat? (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042188)

World domination!

Companies Should Look Inside First (4, Insightful)

Rolan (20257) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042125)

Companies are always quick to blame the 'hackers' when something bad happens. What they need to do is look inside first at themselves. Besides the fact that the vast majority of damage done to company computers is an inside job, most of the external damage (caused by worms and viruses, etc) is caused by people not patching vulnerable systems or having a poor network setup. The virus/worm writers certainly aren't innocent, but a lot of the companies are as guilty for not doing what they need to to defend against such attacks.

Re:Companies Should Look Inside First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042225)

I'd like to hear your bitching when someone breaks into your house and robs you blind.. Tsk tsk, should've had a better________. (alarm, dog, bars, gun, etc.)

Then again it's probably an inside job anyhow, wife or kid on crack and so on.

What's the punishment for stealing a billion dollars?

Must we.. (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042128)

Must we rekindle the hacker v. cracker speech? I say Death to all lowlife scriptkiddies!!! :D I'm sure we can all agree on that, right?

Commutation (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042130)

Commuting the hacker death penalty to a mere "blue screen of death" penalty might be in order. While we are at it, institute such a penalty for the bozos as NYT for making us type Elmer Fudd, pw Wabbit in order to read their info.

Obligatory Linux reccomendation... (1)

Ahkorishaan (774757) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042134)

A) Companies could go to Linux as a now viable optional, especially in the server space. Linux has everything from identity management, to basic server capabilities, and everything else in between. B) Well, ok, viruses will always exist, but I have never in my life gotten one. Perhaps if companies took experience ofver certification, less of the ineptitude would exist, and therefore less viruses would establish themselves on corporate machines.

shutdown -f now (2, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042136)

We must stand firm with our allies, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, in sending sinners to god for their eternal punishment. If they're not guilty, they're martyrs, and we've hastened their journey to their eternal reward, to the root account in the sky.

"Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" - T-Shirt at the Republican National Convention

Re:shutdown -f now (5, Funny)

44BSD (701309) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042241)

"shutdown"? Don't molly-coddle 'em.

# kill -9 1

yes, kill hackers (5, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042137)

Yes, lets kill hackers, but lets let more [theksbwchannel.com] and [latimes.com] more [ocregister.com] child [kfmb.com] molesters [themonitor.com] out of jail

priorites people

"viagra was powerless against my impotence" (3, Insightful)

pohl (872) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042141)

At some point businesses are going to have to place a greater emphasis on the importance of demanding quality software from their vendors and quality configuration from their system administrators. At some point we're going to have to be responsible consumers of technology, able to discern that some new whiz-bang facility offered by ACME Software is just a worm-propagation API in drag. We're going to have to recognize that vulnerabilities can, in fact, stem from software design decisions and that we can't just blame security heartaches on the ubiquity of the software.

I hope that we reach that point far in advance of advocating the death penalty for electronic trespassers. Even a fan of stiff penalties should pause and reflect before going there based upon a dispassionate cost/benefit analysis.

The worse-than-death ideas in the article are amusing, though.

Death? (1)

Doc Squidly (720087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042142)

Isn't it a little harsh? What happened to the punishment fitting the crime? If nobody died then no death penalty.

I don't care how much money was lost.

Re:Death? (3, Funny)

aicrules (819392) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042187)

Yes, but some really rich guys had to fire half their master bathroom attendant staff for a week because they lost a few million as a result. Those former attendants were then deported because they were not legal citizens. In their home country they were seen as failures for not saving their family and stoned to death in a public square.

See...hacking causes death! Death to hackers!

Re:Death? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042236)

Its against the law here to extradite people to countries that support the death penalty for their crimes, its against human rights. (and that includes extradition to the US from Europe where they stand facing the death penalty).

Expect no further extraditions for computer crimes to the US if this takes hold.

This is why the US is evil, they are one of the biggest state sponsered murders ever whether its CIA funded or under the guise of punishment.

is the punishment comissurate with the crime? (1)

ProfBooty (172603) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042144)

Computer crime penalties are already out of whack, that is they are more severe than many physical crimes.

Intent should be taken into account, is someone commiting computer crimes as an intellectual exercise, or are they doing it for terrorism or for monetary gain.

loosing most of the income for the rest of your life seems like a much harshier sentence, than death.

Re:is the punishment comissurate with the crime? (3, Interesting)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042261)

"loosing most of the income for the rest of your life seems like a much harshier sentence, than death."

Since part of the sentence for people convicted of computer crimes is that they can never use a computer again, they actually do lose their best opportunity to make a decent living.

Personally I think the idea of a death penalty for hacking is rediculous. People have lost their retirement savings because of the actions of a few executives at Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco. I do not hear anyone calling for "The Death Penalty for Intentional Accounting Fraud."

Money is money... (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042149)

You can always make more later, but you only have one life. Murders and rapists get less penalty for messing up / ending people's lives than these people want for hackers who screwed up a bunch of businesses? Whatever happened to life being important, and when did the almighty dollar take precedence over human lives? Admittedly it is a _lot_ of dollars, but I still think one life outweighs how many cars some rich people can buy. Besides, other businesses like anti-virus companies, and IT companies MADE a lot of money due to things like viruses / spyware / spam, etc. So it's not like it was a total loss for businesses.

-Jesse

wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042151)

I love americans! that some of you would even entertain this idea long enough for it to get to this stage. I love you all!

Hacking is much too broad a term. (2, Interesting)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042152)

This is pretty much like saying:

Death penalty for fast driving!

Who defines fast? And under what circumstance is it allowed/not allowed? Wrong on so many levels.

Death penalty for fast driving. (0)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042169)

Realize that for fast driving, this penalty is gets imposed automatically during the act.

The obvious solution (4, Funny)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042153)

...is to make them work the Help Desk of any random ISP.

Re:The obvious solution (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042242)

Yes, because I need more disgruntled people who hate their job providing "help" when there is something wrong with my internet connection. It's bad enough that they don't typically know anything about computers when I call, it would be even worse if they did and used it against me ("Yes sir, to fix your issue go to http://goatse...../ [goatse.....] ")

Oh dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042154)

With those kind of punishments I'd have to go back to my old ways of raping and pillaging through suburbs.

Hmm, drunk driving sounds like more fun..

Values (1)

Chardros (3099) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042155)

Goes to show the location of this nations values with talk such as this.

What about a rapist? I don't see them being executed. Is $xxx billion in financial losses due to Sassar (or whatever) worth more than a young girl's chance at a "normal" life?

Putting it in that context... well... just kinda makes ya sick, no?

Let me get this straight... (1)

Darren Winsper (136155) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042156)

ABH: jail time
Rape: lots of jail time (in theory)
Running somebody over accidentally whilst drunk: Probably jail time and a ban from driving
0wnz0ring j00: Death!

Hmm...can we get a sense of proportion here?

Keep in mind Tierney is a GOP stooge (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042157)

Tuerney is a Republican nitwit, prowar, protorture, non suffering idiot.

Essentially a corporate felatio slave.

So, take what he says with a grain of salt and a little lube.

WTF??? (1)

Skellbasher (896203) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042159)

Save the death penalty for those that deserve it, like kid touchers. This is quite possiblly the stupidest idea ever (aside from Windows ME that is...)

Won't help (4, Insightful)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042160)

Except for the fact that the idea is horribly wrong from an ethical viewpoint, it also simply won't work. The efficacy of a punishment is more related to the chance of being caught than to the severity of the punishment.

Despite the risk of huge fines, almost everyone downloads movies at a regular basis, because the chances of being caught are near zero.

I decided to hog up the left lane and go 35MPH... (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042161)

therefore probably causing a few trucks to be late. maybe $10,000 in economic damage. Should I be jailed?

Come on (1)

NicodemusPrime (836605) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042165)

I can uderstand death penalties for people who cause the deaths of numerous other people, but harming companies' profits? Come on. Unless you author a virus with the intent that it shuts down a hospital's life support systems then you shouldn't get death.

Behead the drug dealers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042170)

Notice how there is no more drug use since we've had harsh penalties for several decades. We can do the same thing to wipe out hacking. And your genitals should be removed if you are convicted of connecting to an unauthorized open WAP.

If Hackers can (3, Insightful)

acadia11 (889886) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042175)

get the "death" penalty. I think the guys from Enron and MCI, etc, who cost 10's of millions of damage in the form of lost pensions and 401K's for their employees should recieve an equivalent "death" penalty.

darwinism (1)

marktoml (48712) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042177)

Wouldn't this weed out the hacker pool? Only the best would survive to breed...or do they?

Full article; no registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042178)

Last year a German teenager named Sven Jaschan released the Sasser worm, one of the costliest acts of sabotage in the history of the Internet. It crippled computers around the world, closing businesses, halting trains and grounding airplanes.

A) A 21-month suspended sentence and 30 hours of community service.

B) Two years in prison.

C) A five-year ban on using computers.

D) Death.

E) Something worse.

If you answered A, you must be the German judge who gave him that sentence last week.

If you answered B or C, you're confusing him with other hackers who have been sent to prison and banned from using computers or the Internet. But those punishments don't seem to have deterred hackers like Mr. Jaschan from taking their place.

I'm tempted to say that the correct answer is D, and not just because of the man-years I've spent running virus scans and reformatting hard drives. I'm almost convinced by Steven Landsburg's cost-benefit analysis showing that the spreaders of computer viruses and worms are more logical candidates for capital punishment than murderers are.

Professor Landsburg, an economist at the University of Rochester, has calculated the relative value to society of executing murderers and hackers. By using studies estimating the deterrent value of capital punishment, he figures that executing one murderer yields at most $100 million in social benefits.

The benefits of executing a hacker would be greater, he argues, because the social costs of hacking are estimated to be so much higher: $50 billion per year. Deterring a mere one-fifth of 1 percent of those crimes - one in 500 hackers - would save society $100 million. And Professor Landsburg believes that a lot more than one in 500 hackers would be deterred by the sight of a colleague on death row.

I see his logic, but I also see practical difficulties. For one thing, many hackers live in places where capital punishment is illegal. For another, most of them are teenage boys, a group that has never been known for fearing death. They're probably more afraid of going five years without computer games.

So that leaves us with E: something worse than death. Something that would approximate the millions of hours of tedium that hackers have inflicted on society.

Hackers are the Internet equivalent of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber who didn't manage to hurt anyone on his airplane but has been annoying travelers ever since. When I join the line of passengers taking off their shoes at the airport, I get little satisfaction in thinking that the man responsible for this ritual is sitting somewhere by himself in a prison cell, probably with his shoes on.

He ought to spend his days within smelling range of all those socks at the airport. In an exclusive poll I once conducted among fellow passengers, I found that 80 percent favored forcing Mr. Reid to sit next to the metal detector, helping small children put their sneakers back on.

The remaining 20 percent in the poll (meaning one guy) said that wasn't harsh enough. He advocated requiring Mr. Reid to change the Odor-Eaters insoles of runners at the end of the New York City Marathon.

What would be the equivalent public service for Internet sociopaths? Maybe convicted spammers could be sentenced to community service testing all their own wares. The number of organ-enlargement offers would decline if a spammer thought he'd have to appear in a public-service television commercial explaining that he'd tried them all and they just didn't work for him.

Convicted hackers like Mr. Jaschan could be sentenced to a lifetime of removing worms and viruses, but the computer experts I consulted said there would be too big a risk that the hackers would enjoy the job. After all, Mr. Jaschan is now doing just that for a software security firm.

The experts weren't sure that any punishment could fit the crime, but they had several suggestions: Make the hacker spend 16 hours a day fielding help-desk inquiries in an AOL chat room for computer novices. Force him to do this with a user name at least as uncool as KoolDude and to work on a vintage IBM PC with a 2400-baud dial-up connection. Most painful of all for any geek, make him use Windows 95 for the rest of his life.

I realize that this may not be enough. If you have any better ideas, send them along.

Don't laugh... (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042179)

I wouldn't be surprised to see a death penalty for hacking in places like China within the next few years. They have no problem executing people for commercial fraud involving as little as a few thousand dollars, so extending those penalties to hacking isn't a big stretch for them.

Hospital (1)

Manan Shah (808049) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042180)

I work at a hospital..what if one of our critical care systems were to be infected? Now, we have backups and take pains to ensure that no outside things can get in, but nothing is foolproof. If it affects the care of patient (I.e doctor cant get into a system to see past history of medications right away), who's fault is it? What if it infects the police computer system, and a cop in a squad car cant identify a criminal who has a warrant out, and then he goes and commits murder that would have been prevented? Extreme and unlikely examples, yes, but people who write such things open up the possibilities that this may happen and they should be punished. Do they deserve the death penalty? I don't think so, but life is a reasonable sentence considering the systems that it could affect.

Text of Article (4, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042183)

Last year a German teenager named Sven Jaschan released the Sasser worm, one of the costliest acts of sabotage in the history of the Internet. It crippled computers around the world, closing businesses, halting trains and grounding airplanes.
Skip to next paragraph

Related More Columns by John Tierney
Readers
Forum: John Tierney's Columns

Which of these punishments does he deserve?

A) A 21-month suspended sentence and 30 hours of community service.

B) Two years in prison.

C) A five-year ban on using computers.

D) Death.

E) Something worse.

If you answered A, you must be the German judge who gave him that sentence last week.

If you answered B or C, you're confusing him with other hackers who have been sent to prison and banned from using computers or the Internet. But those punishments don't seem to have deterred hackers like Mr. Jaschan from taking their place.

I'm tempted to say that the correct answer is D, and not just because of the man-years I've spent running virus scans and reformatting hard drives. I'm almost convinced by Steven Landsburg's cost-benefit analysis showing that the spreaders of computer viruses and worms are more logical candidates for capital punishment than murderers are.

Professor Landsburg, an economist at the University of Rochester, has calculated the relative value to society of executing murderers and hackers. By using studies estimating the deterrent value of capital punishment, he figures that executing one murderer yields at most $100 million in social benefits.

The benefits of executing a hacker would be greater, he argues, because the social costs of hacking are estimated to be so much higher: $50 billion per year. Deterring a mere one-fifth of 1 percent of those crimes - one in 500 hackers - would save society $100 million. And Professor Landsburg believes that a lot more than one in 500 hackers would be deterred by the sight of a colleague on death row.

I see his logic, but I also see practical difficulties. For one thing, many hackers live in places where capital punishment is illegal. For another, most of them are teenage boys, a group that has never been known for fearing death. They're probably more afraid of going five years without computer games.

So that leaves us with E: something worse than death. Something that would approximate the millions of hours of tedium that hackers have inflicted on society.

Hackers are the Internet equivalent of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber who didn't manage to hurt anyone on his airplane but has been annoying travelers ever since. When I join the line of passengers taking off their shoes at the airport, I get little satisfaction in thinking that the man responsible for this ritual is sitting somewhere by himself in a prison cell, probably with his shoes on.

He ought to spend his days within smelling range of all those socks at the airport. In an exclusive poll I once conducted among fellow passengers, I found that 80 percent favored forcing Mr. Reid to sit next to the metal detector, helping small children put their sneakers back on.

The remaining 20 percent in the poll (meaning one guy) said that wasn't harsh enough. He advocated requiring Mr. Reid to change the Odor-Eaters insoles of runners at the end of the New York City Marathon.

What would be the equivalent public service for Internet sociopaths? Maybe convicted spammers could be sentenced to community service testing all their own wares. The number of organ-enlargement offers would decline if a spammer thought he'd have to appear in a public-service television commercial explaining that he'd tried them all and they just didn't work for him.

Convicted hackers like Mr. Jaschan could be sentenced to a lifetime of removing worms and viruses, but the computer experts I consulted said there would be too big a risk that the hackers would enjoy the job. After all, Mr. Jaschan is now doing just that for a software security firm.

The experts weren't sure that any punishment could fit the crime, but they had several suggestions: Make the hacker spend 16 hours a day fielding help-desk inquiries in an AOL chat room for computer novices. Force him to do this with a user name at least as uncool as KoolDude and to work on a vintage IBM PC with a 2400-baud dial-up connection. Most painful of all for any geek, make him use Windows 95 for the rest of his life.

I realize that this may not be enough. If you have any better ideas, send them along.

Come on (1)

Thri11a (899181) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042190)

are you kidding me, death penalty for hacking, thats absurd. next well be chopping peoples hands off because they stick up their middle fingers. overkill.

Hacking a capital crime? Nigga, PLEASE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042191)

How about some harsher penalties for treason [sfgate.com] instead?

Justice! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042192)

"...Death penalty..."
"is this too harsh, considering the billions of damages"...

Wow. So the upshot of this is that the government should murder you if you cause people to lose lots of money?

(Unless you have lots of money, presumably, as in the case of certain CEOs who ruin the life savings of people naive enough to believe that the stock market is a sufficient substitute for a governmental pension system...)

May I point out that things have become just a little bit sick and perverted?

holy crap (1)

illtron (722358) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042196)

File this one under batshit crazy ideas. Killing more people is always the way to go. Also, I wish that more of my tax money went toward incarcerating people over insane paranoia. Perhaps I should write an op/ed piece.

Yeah, Just great, NYT. (1)

One Childish N00b (780549) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042200)

Yeah, that's really where we want to head - execution for hackers because "businesses depend on their computers"? yeah, great idea, isn't the RIAA's argument that copyright infringement costs businesses money?

With the government in the pockets of big business, the last thing we want is some NYT Op-Ed shouting his mouth off about how people should be executed for crimes against corporations' bottom lines - who knows what ideas they'll get...

So this is what it's come to... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042201)

The general public get criminalized, and people who (while complete pricks) aren't physically harming anyone get sentenced to death.
At the same time, the **AA is running protection rackets and giving MS a reason to control the hardware you paid for. Not just in the US, but the rest of the world too. Both companies supported by a warmongering government that never should've been reelected.
Call me crazy, but I think a public rebellion is in order here.

Could someone please cite a published study? (5, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042202)

I'd appreciate it if any death penalty advocates could please cite a published work (in a reputable journal) which clearly shows statistical evidence that the death penalty actually acts as a deterrant in the mind of would-be criminals.

As far as I can tell, it's just something that sounds really good. You know, "Criminals will be very scared of being killed for their actions, because normal people are very scared of being killed." From the little I know about the workings of the human mind, most sociopaths don't react to things the same way the rest of us do, and people who cause massive damage on an any scale - economic, physical, emotional - are sociopaths.

Anyway, I'd just appreciate some good evidence for the "deterrant" hypothesis. Then I'll start to believe it might be a good idea.

interesting sentencing... (1)

ed.han (444783) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042203)

the idea of putting convicted producers of malware to work fixing the problems they created is probably the single most effective and poetic sentence that could be reached. but i think that's not coming any time soon.

look at the terms kevin mitnick was/is forced to endure as a result of his sentencing. it seems to me that a lot of people would need to have a change of heart about what sentencing means before we ever see that sort of sentencing.

ed

What about non-tech crimes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042204)

Don't have time to RTFA, but I'm curious about using deterrents against non-technological white collar crimes that cost people billions of dollars (Tyco, Enron, etc.). I'd say these are more diabolical and deliberate than some computer geek who wants to feel importance in the world by writing a mass-mailing worm.

Hackers Killers and Molestors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042205)

Thats nice.

Jeffery Dahmer's are out there.
Michael Jackson's are out there.
Hackers are out there.

Oh and the hacker should be the one sentenced to death. Er, umm. yeah.

Eric

What's wrong with license revocation (1)

abelikoff (412709) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042208)

Many professions where wrongdoing is a serious offence have employed license revocation as a successful deterrent. While software development is not a licensed activity, having a similar punishment (e.g. prohibition to be employed in any computer-affiliated capacity) might be a solution for a problem. Needless to say, that this is a drsatic measure and it should be applied to serious offenses only (i.e. viruses/worms, etc.)

cost-benefit analysis (1)

mbbac (568880) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042209)

"I'm tempted to say that the correct answer is D[eath], and not just because of the man-years I've spent running virus scans and reformatting hard drives. I'm almost convinced by Steven Landsburg's cost-benefit analysis showing that the spreaders of computer viruses and worms are more logical candidates for capital punishment than murderers are."

Right. Because capital punishment is all about cost-benefit analysis. Make the accountants the executioners!

How about... (1)

DrHex (142347) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042211)

holding software developers and companies responsible for poorly written software? Check out the EULA, Windows blows up and wipes out your accounting software, the most you can sue the vendor for is the cost of the software in question. Where's the incentive to software companies to write better code?

I don't know about death... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042213)

... but a massive hack attack certainly shouldn't be considered a legitimate way to seek a six-figure job opportunity [emailbattles.com] .

Bad Idea & Bad, Bad Jokes (1)

CleverNickedName (644160) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042214)

Apart from the whole idea of a "death penalty" being sickening, the average hacker wouldn't fit in the electric chair anyway.

And good luck if you try killing them by injecting harmful chemicals into their Pepsi-stream.

Billions in damage my arse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042219)

Those estimates come mostly from patching costs. But applying patches has to be done anyway and admins who don't do it are negligent. So the real cost there is zero. Then they also claim damages based on lost business. Bull. If a customer goes somewhere else that is still up and running then the fault is of the CIO for using Windows or the admin for not patching the systems. And if a customer can't buy because the whole internet is wonky well then he will come back and buy that item later after everything is better.

Idiotic (1)

Lazarus_Bitmap (593726) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042221)

Some people seem to forget that certain IT luminaries including Jobs and Wozniak were playing around with blue boxes and cracking the phone network in their younger days. Some of our greatest innovators started out as young people who pushed legal boundaries and used technology in less than ethical ways.

I'm not equating phone freaks with script kiddies, but stupid ideas like making the punishment for this kind of behaviour worse than what rapists or murderers (crimes which result in real physical or psychological damage - as opposed to electronic crimes that may end up forcing the industry to improve security practices, monetary damages aside) receive is idiotic. Especially when young kids are involved.

Let's think about this rationally.

Great Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042222)

The death penalty is underused anyway, especially given how effective and efficient it has proven to be. And after using it on those "hacker" evildoers, how about extending it to corporate officers presiding over corporations involved in earnings "misstatements" and tax shelter schemes?

Thats corporate America! (1)

XXIstCenturyBoy (617054) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042229)

"Let's face it, businesses are becoming more dependent on their computers but they continue to be a point of failure, and subsequently, frustration through lost profits"

Wow. Corporations loosing profits is now a logic reason for a death penalty.

Maybe it will stop the "I found a finger in my Chili" people though.

Or we should kill everyone that report a business to their local BBB... That is bound to make a dent in a corporation's profit.

Oh! oh! I got it! Such a law would make all those bible-belt-Disney-boycotting-asshat think twice!

Death penalty? (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042230)

For worms or viruses that usually just cause wide scale network outages and economic damge? That's jus too extreme for what usually happens. It's not like these things end up killing people. I'd hate to see how that academic treats their kids at home.

Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042232)

How about the death penalty for the corporate CEO's, COO's, CFO's, CIO's, and board members who do not secure their networks and lose customers personal information?

Remember (1)

nxtr (813179) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042234)

It's just an op-ed. It's meant to create a stir.

Death penalty for hackers... (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042237)

Bruce Schneier suggests product liability for software vendors and that makes a lot of sense. The Internet would be a much saner place if systems would not have a 50% chance of being 0wn3d within 20 minutes of being connected.

What is done here is "window dressing". What helps combat crime is increasing the chance to get caught. Will this proposal do anything about that? No, it only helps to fill up prisons with potential security experts...

The death penalty is dubious as it is (5, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042238)

As a kid, I used to think the death penalty was a great idea.

At about age 16, we had a school debate on the subject. I was on the 'pro' death penalty side, but that debate sowed the inital small niggles of doubt.

By the time I was 18, I realised the death penalty was completely barbaric. If just one innocent person is executed, that's tantamount to state sponsored murder. That's not to mention that capital punishment doesn't seem to deter crime anyway - Texas is executing more people than ever.

One of the interesting things - if you have a debate with most pro-capital punishment people, they go awfully quiet when you ask them what would they do if they were falsely convicted of a capital crime. How would they feel as they were about to be gassed for a crime they didn't commit?

I'm glad the EU outlaws capital punishment - it's a concept that should have disappeared in the 19th century. As Ghandi said - an eye for an eye and soon the whole world would be blind.

Relax (4, Informative)

antientropic (447787) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042240)

The poster needs to have his humour detector adjusted. It should be obvious that Tierney is not quite serious about the death penalty. It's more than a bit tongue-in-cheek. Quote from the article:

Make the hacker spend 16 hours a day fielding help-desk inquiries in an AOL chat room for computer novices. Force him to do this with a user name at least as uncool as KoolDude and to work on a vintage IBM PC with a 2400-baud dial-up connection. Most painful of all for any geek, make him use Windows 95 for the rest of his life.

I will go along with this (1)

Lonath (249354) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042243)

as long as it's not just for hackers. If we up the penalties for any kind of dishonesty/fucktardism that costs society a lot of money, then execute the people who carry out those policies (such as the executives of large corporations), then I will go along with this. Just make sure that the dollar amount you cost society is the determining factor, not the reasons behind why you did it.

What has become of the traditional ways? (2, Interesting)

GeekDork (194851) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042248)

Why not give those people a good ol' public whipping?

How many lives were lost? (1)

SnowDeath (157414) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042250)

Really, does the punishment fit the crime? If no lives were lost, then the death penalty far surpasses the punishment warranted. Is a corporate bottom line worth the killing of one person? I say no.

Deadly Force (1)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042254)

and is this too harsh, even considering the billions in damage that is sometimes caused?

Death penalty for hacking / writing viruses? Hmmmm... That's a tough one. At the police academy that I attended, there is one question on the written exam that, if answered incorrectly, will result in expulsion from the academy. That question is, "When is the use of deadly force justified?" The Answer: "When your life or the life of another is in imminent danger."

I consider the death penalty a use of deadly force, and in most cases, it would not be justified for the typical hacker|cracker (your preference), especially some dumb script kiddie. Millions or billions worth of damages/losses due to some worm != someome's life in iminent danger.

If, on the other hand, a virus or worm were to, say, screw up the life support systems at a hospital, or somehow mess up the core temperature control system at a nuclear plant (causing a meltdown), then I would say the the death penalty could be justified.

Instead... (4, Insightful)

Greenisus (262784) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042256)

Instead of "hacking" as a crime, perhaps the "hacker" should be charged with any crime that happens as a result. Break into a banking system, and it's fraud and possibly theft. Break into the 911 system and cause several people to die because they couldn't get help, and it's murder. Then, you don't have to make up new punishments and new laws and the punishment will be appropriate to the damage done.

It just seems obvious to me. Am I missing something here?

Crime deterrent (1)

Androk (873765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042258)

I think all crime should be the death penalty. Speeding - death hacking - death robbing thousands of people through corporate fraud - 2 years in federal summer camp Gotta keep the lower classes in check Androk

Hackers, Killers and Molestors (1)

buht (738798) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042263)

Thats nice. Jeffery Dahmers are out there. Michael Jacksons are out there. Hackers are out there. Oh, lets sentence the hacker to death. Erm yeah.

corporate idiots & lamers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042264)

get rid of MS-Windows! port your aplications over to BSD and/or Linux, don't continue to let yourself be a victom of an inferior operating system manufactured by a corporation sever times more greedy & corrupt than the one you work for...

what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042265)

death penalty for those smart enough to exploit flaws and help our technology grow...

but people who KILL other people and rape children get ~20 years

you're kidding me...

The article seems a troll . . . (1)

aneeshm (862723) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042274)

This entire article seems to be trollish .

First , though I hate to be pedantic , the incorrect use of the word hacker gets to me , specially when discussing something as serious as the death penalty .

Secondly , the right to life is inalienable , and cannot be taken away unless you have forfeited ( means of forfeiting it include not recognising it in another human ( which means trying to murder / actually murdering someone ) , or some other action which shows that you do not recognise it as a right ) it .

A crime which results in financial/reputational ( is reputational a word ? ) loss cannot be considered a forfeiture of your right to life , as you have committed no action or made no statement to the effect that your right to life is nullified .

The articel seems to have intended to get a rise out of the technical community , and the best thing I could ask to do it to ignore it and not give the topic legtimacy by discussing it seriously .

Vendor responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042275)

Let's not forget that the plague of viruses is largely to blame on poorly written systems. Vendors of comercial OSes should not be permitted to hide behind EULAs and should be sued for damages for providing insecure products.

I reckon that would help a bit.

This is not Disneyland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13042276)

The 'net is, well,... the net.

It's not safe, it's not child freindly, it's not simple and it's not cheap. There are viruses on it.

I think people rushed into the 'net for the creativity, the wildness of it all. Now, rather than deal with the flip side, people want to ratchet down on the wildness and have their old lives back. Unfortunately imposing heavy control and penalties goes against many ideals (creativity, responsibility, market-forces ideology) that may be more important than cleaning some spyware off a PC occasionally.

this is alittle crazy (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042282)

so they are saying they are willing to kill someone jsut becuse they made them lose money.. killing someone becuse they killed someone .. i can see that.. but taking a life for damage to things and lose of money.. why don't we jsut put a price on everyones head first that way i can tell if i am worth dieing for. the day that they go through with this .. is the day i will remove my self from this so call world

Of course this is too harsh (2, Insightful)

glMatrixMode (631669) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042285)

Of course this is too harsh.

Do rapists, killers, pedophiles and other kinds of criminals get death penalties or lifetime jail ? Not in my country. Not in any country of the EU. Even in the USA, only killers get death sentences, and other kinds of crimes don't get you such harsh sentences (but correct me if I'm wrong here).

Immaterial "crimes" like cracking into a computer system are only crimes because we decide so. We decide so because it is a way of ensuring the stability of our economic system. That's fine, but if we begin to compare that in severity to physical crimes, where people get injured, where violence happens, that means that we have forgotten everything. If we jail more severely (lifetime) a computer cracker than a rapist (usually 2 years jail), then we are totally decadent.

Typical America (1)

dgos78 (881140) | more than 9 years ago | (#13042287)

Welcome to the USA, where money is more important than children.
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