Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime United States News Politics

Obama Admin Wants Hackers Charged As Mobsters 568

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-punishment-fit-the-crime dept.
GovTechGuy writes "The Obama administration wants hackers to be prosecuted under the same laws used to target organized crime syndicates, according to two officials appearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. From the article: 'Associate Deputy Attorney General James Baker and Secret Service Deputy Special Agent in Charge Pablo Martinez said the maximum sentences for cyber crimes have failed to keep pace with the severity of the threats. Martinez said hackers are often members of sophisticated criminal networks. "Secret Service investigations have shown that complex and sophisticated electronic crimes are rarely perpetrated by a lone individual," Martinez said.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Obama Admin Wants Hackers Charged As Mobsters

Comments Filter:
  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @08:51PM (#37335304)

    How about charging their fellow sociopaths - in the Administration & Congress - as mobsters?

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>How about charging their fellow sociopaths - in the Administration & Congress - as mobsters?

      You laugh, but I actually listened in on this talk on CSPAN Radio (I know, I know). They want pretty much anyone in a hacking group to be vulnerable to RICO statutes. RICO, of course, was invented to deal with mobsters, but as since then been applied to people such as antiabortion activists and even in civil cases. Now being a "cybercriminal" will get you thrown in jail, more. Which is the point - Pablo w

  • I didn't realise being a mobster was a crime. I thought you actually had to commit a crime while in the mob to be charged; hence nailing Capone on tax evasion.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:01PM (#37335364)

      I didn't realise being a mobster was a crime. I thought you actually had to commit a crime while in the mob to be charged; hence nailing Capone on tax evasion.

      That was back in the bad old days when the government actually had to get a constitutional amendment to ban things, before they discovered that the interstate commerce clause allowed them to make any law they wanted.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Google the RICO Act. It's interesting stuff.

      • Also known as the "if we had had this shit in the 30's, we could have gotten Capone for more than fucking tax evasion" act.

    • RICO act (Score:5, Informative)

      by drnb (2434720) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:07PM (#37335406)

      I didn't realise being a mobster was a crime. I thought you actually had to commit a crime while in the mob to be charged; hence nailing Capone on tax evasion.

      The RICO act, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act [wikipedia.org], changed that in 1970. In particular leaders who directed or assisted those who actually committed the crime were now also part of the crime.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:07PM (#37335416)

      There are laws against belonging to a criminal organization, under the RICO Act. Those laws were introduced in the 1970s, long after Capone's time, precisely because going after mob leaders for tax evasion isn't a good strategy (after Capone, they started paying their taxes), and neither is letting the leader get away simply because he didn't get his hands dirty.

      The RICO Act requires an organization to commit a pattern of certain crimes before it can be charged with racketeering. Among those crimes are theft, fraud, and money laundering, all of which can be applied to organized groups of hackers. It seems completely reasonable to apply the law in this way. Of course the Slashdot anarchists will decry any law enforcement whatsoever.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        The RICO Act requires an organization to commit a pattern of certain crimes before it can be charged with racketeering. Among those crimes are theft, fraud, and money laundering, all of which can be applied to organized groups of hackers. It seems completely reasonable to apply the law in this way. Of course the Slashdot anarchists will decry any law enforcement whatsoever.

        I don't get it. If some of these hackers are indeed part of criminal organizations, then doesn't the RICO law already apply to them? W

        • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

          by artor3 (1344997) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:24PM (#37335522)

          There are some computer crimes that don't fall on the RICO Act's list, such as theft of confidential information, or spreading a virus with the intent of causing at least $5000 of damage, or bringing down a computer system on which public safety relies.

          Obama wants to add those to the RICO list.

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      No, you have to be caught doing a crime. Being a mobster means your mob stops people from talking to the law about your crimes, and stops judges from saying something bad about your crimes. Capone kept people shut up, but his books were captured in a raid that implicated him. Tax evasion was a good way to bust a serious criminal who was such a bad guy that people were afraid to bust him.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:17PM (#37335872) Homepage Journal

      As somebody else pointed out, look up RICO. What I'd like to do take issue with your implicit assumption that *being* a mobster does not do the kind of harm that is obviously criminal.

      Suppose you join the mob as their computer geek. You help them encrypt their records and all kinds of other things people in general have a right to do, but you do it with the full and explicit understanding that you're helping the mob kill and rob people. None of the things you do all day long like check the mail server logs for hackers or generating crypto keys for the hitmen is illegal in itself. And because you're a consummate professional, you fix things that the really sensitive information is safe even from you. If one of those hitmen murders somebody, you had no specific knowledge that specific murder was going to take place, so you can't be prosecuted for the murder. You *did* intentionally participate in the murder by helping the hitman do his job. It's possible the murder might not have taken place without your help (e.g., that the cops would have found the unencrypted contract on a laptop). But your criminal intent is effectively "laundered" so it can't be attached to any single crime.

      I think that kind intentional contribution to many crimes without specific knowledge of any would be the point of applying something like RICO to black hat hackers. Let's say you're part of a hacker gang that steals identities. You don't necessarily participate directly, but play a supporting role knowing that this is what's going on. Although you knowingly play a critical role in stealing thousands of identities, you don't can't be implicated in any single instance of theft because you didn't know that individual theft was going to happen. So you acted with criminal intent, participating in thousands of thefts, but because that theft can't be tied to any one of those thefts you can't be charged with identity theft. That's because you're not an identity thief, you're an identity theft *racketeer*.

      That's what's going on here. They're going to go after criminal hackers using racketeering laws that were designed for just that purpose. How many years have we been saying that putting "cyber-" in front of something doesn't make it a new kind of crime? Same goes here. Bringing up Capone here is quite apropos. Saying anyone charged with tax evasion is being charged as a "Mobster" would be logically equivalent to saying that anyone charged for racketeering is being charged as a "Mobster".

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        Although you knowingly play a critical role in stealing thousands of identities, you don't can't be implicated in any single instance of theft because you didn't know that individual theft was going to happen.

        Consider that principle, and consider the idea of criminal copyright infringement. Would MegaUpload be a copyright infringement racketeer? What about Amazon S3? Who would decide which data storage providers would be targeted?

        How would it apply to ISPs that allow Tor nodes, darknet nodes, VPNs, or proxi

      • Then what about more bordeline jobs? Currently, a large online bookmaker is hiring. Betting may or may not be illegal in some jurisdiction. Would accepting such a job put myself in danger of being prosecuted under RICO?

        And what if this betting shop was actually a front for something more sinister? Would software engineers working on the "generic" parts also become culpable of whatever other dealings go on in the company, of which they might not directly be aware?

        So, for the sake of equality before the law

  • by jgreco (1542031) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @08:56PM (#37335340)

    Seems like when they find that the electronic crimes are not perpetrated by a lone individual, then they ought to be able to target them appropriately.

    I worry, however, that this sort of thing would be used to justify ruining the life of some poor dumb kid whose knowledge was larger than his wisdom.

    • Seems like when they find that the electronic crimes are not perpetrated by a lone individual, then they ought to be able to target them appropriately.

      Note that the RICO act also requires the crime to be of a certain nature. For example extortion, theft, fraud, counterfeiting, money laundering, and obstruction of justice seem to be the relevant ones.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act [wikipedia.org]

      I worry, however, that this sort of thing would be used to justify ruining the life of some poor dumb kid whose knowledge was larger than his wisdom.

      Given the preference for using underage kids in the drug trade since they can't be prosecuted as an adult, I'd say that underage hackers will not be under the sort of risk you suggest.

    • by hrvatska (790627) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:29PM (#37335560)
      Whenever someone is promoting a law that is overly broad they always assure the public that it will only be used to go after the meanest, most terrible, and reprehensible people. Next thing you know the law is being used to prosecute small fry. My favorite example is teenage girls being charged with distributing child porn for sending pictures of themselves to friends.
  • How is printing money from thin air not the same as mobster?

    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:08PM (#37335816) Homepage Journal

      Because printing money doesn't kill people.

      Money is voodoo. It's a completely abstract promise that someone will do something for you in the future, because someone else did something for you in the past. Whether it's printed according to some government formula, or passed around from rare materials gradually mined from the ground, or carved into huge stone discs, creating money is always based on some willingness to believe something that can be proven only by waiting and seeing.

      That is not what mobsters do. Mobsters don't deal in abstractions. They rob, wound and kill in a very immediate demonstration of value given and taken.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @12:22AM (#37336510)

        Because printing money doesn't kill people.

        The hell it doesn't....

        Printing money has literally lead to a WORLD WAR.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Because printing money doesn't kill people.

          The hell it doesn't.... Printing money has literally lead to a WORLD WAR.

          Yes, if only we'd all stuck to the gold standard, there would have been no First or Second World War.

  • by Tavor (845700) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:03PM (#37335378)
    is a loaded word. If this law is used only against criminal enterprises or other "gangs" of criminals, it'll be fine.
    • by EnempE (709151)
      Whats more the 'b' and 'n' keys are right next to each other making the inadvertent labeling of hackers as monsters that much easier ;-)
      • Whats more the 'b' and 'n' keys are right next to each other making the inadvertent labeling of hackers as monsters that much easier ;-)

        Instead of thinking about far-fetched scenarios (come on - like simply mistyping N for B could ever result in someone being negatively perceived), why don't you focus on the nigger problem here?

  • by santax (1541065) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:04PM (#37335386)
    That is what this is about, make no mistake. Here most people now that 'anonymous' are mostly kids from 4chan, doing what kids and teens in general do... get pissed about injustice and morally wrong things. Hell I have one trick I have been using for years now and it is working great. If you want to know if something is fair or doing justice? Ask a child! They know! In the news, the public that doesn't know 4chan and the truth behind this non-organization, is being told that this is a group of people that know each other, that make plans, that gather together... For evil and to monetize on it... We all know that is bull. But the general public doesn't. This is just another step in that direction. Let's call them mobsters.... In the meantime however, on the background there are still the wikileaks cables burning. If these guys are so upset about crimes, they would have resigned a long time ago since well... their own jobs consists mostly out of committing crimes on a global scale. They know it, I know it and I'm pretty sure that deep in your heart, you know it too.
    • by santax (1541065)
      now = know disclaimer: sorry for the bad English. I suck at it :P
      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:26PM (#37335536)

        Don't be so hard on yourself. I only saw one now/know error in your whole post, despite lots of nows and knows. Your English seems perfectly fine. One error is easily attributable to a simple typo; maybe you didn't hit the 'k' key hard enough. It's only when you make the same dumb mistake over and over and over that you look like you're illiterate. This isn't a college English essay here, so perfection isn't necessary (though this shouldn't be construed to say that totally sloppy writing is OK either).

        You remind me of non-native English writers who ask forgiveness for their English writing, when their writing is frequently 10x better than the crap that our (America's) younger generation is putting out.

        • by santax (1541065)
          Thank you :) That must be the kindest reply I have ever seen here! (Well, at least as reply to my own thoughts.)
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      'anonymous' are mostly kids from 4chan, doing what kids and teens in general do... get pissed about injustice and morally wrong things.

      Most kids and teens when I was young liked fucking around, breaking stuff and annoying people. No doubt it's different with the internet-educated, politically-aware young people of today.

  • ...being used against organized crime. News at 11.

    Seriously, most cracking and virus-creation is for the money these days. It's the new bootlegging. Is this supposed to be controversial?

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:16PM (#37335462)
    It's better than being treated like a terrorist which is how a lot of people would like to see hackers tried as. Though I don't think laws regarding organized crime should be used unless there is an actual organization involved or clearly working for an organization.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Though I don't think laws regarding organized crime should be used unless there is an actual organization involved or clearly working for an organization.

      Like, for example, someone gets caught working with Anonymous?

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        I didn't really think of that. I always considered anonymous more like violent angry protesters and vandals than criminals. How ever in the eyes of the law they would be considered mobsters which really lends them way to much credibility in my opinion.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:24PM (#37335524)

    Rather than the maximum sentences for cyber crimes have failed to keep pace with the severity of the threats, it seems that in many cases the problem is that hacked party's network security has failed to keep pace with the value of the data.

    If a thief breaks a company's car window (where there's a sign that says "Credit card numbers stored here!") and steals a printout with a million credit card numbers, everyone will say the company was stupid for leaving the printout sitting on the car seat.

    Yet when a hacker exploits a well known (and easily eliminated) SQL injection vulnerability to do the same thing, suddenly the hacker is escalated to "organized crime" level?

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Sure if said hacker is part of organisation and committed two racketeering activities then why shouldn't the laws that have existed for 40 years (and have been applied to as diverse cases as the mob, a police department, the catholic church, a police department, and a texas health care provider) be applied?

      Fraud seems the obvious RICO offense that said hacker would commit multiple times. Maybe theft if they snagged copies of secret government documents of if the jury squints enough.

    • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:06PM (#37336148)

      If a group of people formed an organization with the goal of stealing credit cards, then yes, they can be prosecuted under organized crime law. Doesn't matter if their method for doing so is beating up pedestrians and taking their wallets, breaking and entering, or SQL injection.

      If just one guy decides to steal some credit cards, he can be prosecuted for one of the several varieties of theft, but not under RICO. Doesn't matter what his method is.

  • Martinez said hackers are often members of sophisticated criminal networks [...]

    He also added that "Hackers are a grave threat to the national security and that they need more funding..." [youtube.com]

  • Some are mobsters. When you look at how false antivirus malware proliferates and fleeces the unsuspecting public and even holds their computer for ransom. You can't help but see similarity in how they operate in function and philosophy to organized crime. They will undoubtedly push this through with this in mind. Of course without limits on who is eligible every 12 year old with a LOIC download could find themselves with punishments far in excess of their crimes. Make no mistake many who support this intend
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      The man children of Anonymous aren't "civil dissidents". They're vandals and trolls. They delight in causing suffering for others, and then laughing at that suffering. They say so themselves. They do it "for the lulz". Arresting some of them doesn't hurt our liberty, it helps it.

      You need to stop imagining Anon to be some white knights come to your rescue. You are seriously misunderstanding their motives. Today they may attack someone you hate. Tomorrow they may attack you. They have more in common

  • Holy Shit! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:41PM (#37335620) Journal

    Did anyone read the second half of the article?

    Experts have warned that without some sort of enforcement mechanism [to compel compliance with Department of Homeland Security cyber security standards] companies will not take the necessary security precautions. [Democratic Senator] Blumenthal echoed that stance, suggesting the administration "consider some kind of stick as well as a carrot."

    Industry has argued that resources are the main limitation and argued for incentives such as liability protection for firms that experience attacks.

    Are you shitting me?
    The government wants companies to actually secure their/our data and the response is "sure, if we're not liable for any break-ins"
    Off the top of my head, the government has indemnified vaccine manufacturers and nuclear power plant operators.
    For some reason, I don't see cyber security as being in remotely the same league.

    If anyone else can think of other industries indemnfied by the Federal Government, don't be shy about responding.
    I'm willing to bet that nothing anyone brings up will be remotely similar to indemnifying private companies for poor computer security.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:43PM (#37335632) Homepage Journal
    the 'organized syndicates' you talk about operate out of china, russia, and there is nothing in hell's depths you can do to them. unless you start third world war.
    • That's the whole point.
      They're well aware that 99% of the cyber-crime doesn't happen where their laws can reach, the rhetoric is for the justification so they can then use it for other purposes .
      They do the same thing here in Australia (and probably every other country) all the time.
  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:46PM (#37335652) Homepage
    Defacing a website: Trivial

    Stealing money from people over the internet: Serious

    But can our government tell the difference?  I don't think so, yet.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:47PM (#37335662) Journal
    while bankers that have stolen BILLIONS, are friends? Hmmm. You crackers need to hire a lobbyist.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      No, they stole the government, which is why Obama is in charge, and why Bush was in charge before him, etc etc. The money was given to them at least quasi-legally... once they owned the government.

  • what about hackers in russia? where it's easy to pay off cops and get a way with it?

  • by happyhamster (134378) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:16PM (#37335866)

    I disagree with applying this law to hackers, but I have been saying for a while that Wall Street should have been tried under RICO Act [wikipedia.org]. That would allow to put at least half of the scum in jail, along with confiscation of property. Some justice would have been served.

  • WAIT a minute here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inode_buddha (576844) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:21PM (#37335904) Journal

    What about all the patent trolls? shouldn't they be classified as mobsters too? After all, aren't they behaving in the same way?

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:24PM (#37335922)
    RICO has been used to charge groups of people who are involved in a crime - including those who ordered the comes but did not commit them - hence the racketeering moniker. While it aims at traditional mob related activities; it was not necessarily intended to only be used that way. rather, it allows increased penalties for multiple crimes, seizure of assets and civil recovery by victims. Given the nature of some computer crimes, RICO seems a reasonable tool to use against computer criminals. As side effect of RICO is it puts a lot of pressure on defendant sot settle because of the extra penalties it applies if convicted.
  • Whatever the intention of the proposers of this legislation, they will undoubtedly be pressure to use it to classify uploading a torrent as a criminal conspiracy -- it involves groups of "hackers" in a "conspiracy", it causes millions of dollars of harm (according to the RIAA). Thus they can be charged under the amended RICO.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:43PM (#37336016)
    Clearly the answer is to demonize what we can't understand. The next thing that will happen will be making "hacking software" illegal to possess, nevermind that all of them have perfectly legitimate applications. Of course though, none of this matters since the real cracking groups operate out of countries which aren't the US, Australia and Western Europe, while these laws will be used to create even more destruction of rights.
  • If anyone knows about organized crime, it would be the gangster from Chicago... "The Land of the Voting Dead".

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:22PM (#37336248)

    Many of us have been arguing for a while now that computer crimes shouldn't be treated any differently from other crimes. Stealing credit card numbers is theft, whether you do it by breaking and entering a storefront or by SQL injection on a website. Vandalism is vandalism, whether you've defaced the front entrance to the New York Times building or the front page of their website.

    Too many concerned public officials are trying to put computer crimes in their own category, as if they're somehow more terrifying and dangerous because a computer was involved. And contrariwise, many geeks seem to feel that crimes are not crimes if you use a computer to do them. Both of these positions are wrong. Prosecute the crime, not the tool used to commit it.

    So this article is about government doing the right thing. They're treating people who organize for the purposes of committing computer crime as organized criminals, and prosecuting them accordingly, rather than trying to invent some new crime for the situation.

    And for those of you who are posting "oh, so uploading a torrent is being a mobster now?", you're not paying attention. To prosecute under RICO, you must establish both that crimes were committed, and that a group was organized for the purpose of committing them. A prosecutor would be hard-pressed to convince a judge that a dude in his dorm room is an organized group.

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:39PM (#37336332) Journal

    Let's be clear here: Obama is not, and will not be remembered as the worst president ever - nor as the worst in recent history.

    But dammit, he's probably the most _dissappointing_ president in recent history. Nobody expected Bush jr. to be anything but the incompetent warmongering buffoon he proved himself. Nobody expected great things of Clinton, but he wasn't really any worse than expected either. Hell, Bush Sr. was actually a pleasant surprise.

    But Obama was the last great hope for the US, and he has turned into the worst sort of lying, deceitful, two-faced power monger. It's not that he's a dirtbag, it's that he actually came across as someone who gave a shit--until he got elected.

    My US friends, I'm sorry for you. Really.

    • by lennier (44736)

      Nobody expected Bush jr. to be anything but the incompetent warmongering buffoon he proved himself.

      Well, presumably the people who voted for him expected him to be something else. Possibly many of them still believe that he achieved exactly what they put him in office to do.

      Which I personally find pretty darn scary, but there you go, that's democracy for you.

    • Nobody expected Bush jr. to be anything but the incompetent warmongering buffoon he proved himself.

      Wow, that is amazingly uninformed. War was not an issue in the 2000 election. Bush Jr.'s plan was to focus on eduction reform, trade reform (in particular with China), etc. 9/11/2001 changed that plan. Are you so uninformed that I need to point out that 9/11 was not Bush's idea?

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:51PM (#37336392) Journal
    Apparently all other imminent threats to America have been addressed, there is full employment of the American populace, all terrorist threats throughout the world have been eliminated, etc etc etc.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

Working...