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Man Convicted For Helping Thousands Steal Internet Access 378

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-web dept.
angry tapir writes "An Oregon man has been convicted of seven courts of wire fraud for helping thousands of people steal Internet service. Ryan Harris, 26, of Redmond, Oregon, was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He faces a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the seven counts."
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Man Convicted For Helping Thousands Steal Internet Access

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  • by ozduo (2043408) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:18AM (#39245035)
    don't to the crime if you cant do the time
  • Re:Bad design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:33AM (#39245085) Journal

    Any sentencing here should include a heavy fine to the ISP for technical incompetence.

    Theoretically it already has, it's paid the fine in lost customers due to their service being so crappy. I can't imagine that you could pull something like this off without massively degrading the hijacked service.

  • Re:hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xenobyte (446878) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:34AM (#39245089)

    There a huge difference. You can indeed steal Internet service - you are not making a copy - you are actually taking something someone else paid for, i.e. theft.

    When it comes to 'stealing' intellectual property - you are not taking anything away, nor are you taking something someone else paid for. You are making a copy that detracts nothing from the original. Any loss would come from the loss of a potential sale, but as must file sharing either is done by people who would never pay for the stuff they download (no lost sale) or by people that buys the downloaded material later when it becomes available, there's usually no loss involved and thus no theft.

    Understand it now?

  • Re:hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 404 Clue Not Found (763556) * on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:58AM (#39245195)

    It's completely different. Service theft isn't duplicating anything. You're not copying somebody else's internet connection. You're taking their finite bandwidth away from them without their permission. Hence, theft.

    Kinda like taking water out of a stream. There's usually a lot to start with, but if you take some, he takes some, and a million farmers take some, soon that river will be pretty dry. Water rights are more complex than internet bandwidth, obviously, but the same principle applies.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:07AM (#39245235)

    You are ok with a fine on you if your house gets broken in to and it is found you didn't do a good job securing it. After all, if we fining people for not doing security properly, then it needs to apply to physical security too, and to individuals too. So if you are like most people and have a cheap lock that is vulnerable to bumping and picking, single pane windows with no security screen or coating, no security locks on your windows, no alarm system, and so on then if you get broken in to, you get fined too.

    After all, it is something you can fix. You can get high security locks from someone like Medeco or Assa that can't be bumped, and key controlled, hard to pick etc. You can have your windows replaced with coated glass and screens that are very difficult to break through. You can buy friction security locks for your windows that you take on and off when you want to open them and so on.

    You probably don't choose to. Few people do. It costs more and is inconvenient. However it does make it much easier for someone to break in to your house.

    Now if you aren't ok with that, then I have to ask why it is ok to fine the ISP. Could have the had better security? Most certainly. However they chose not to and that doesn't make what was done to them right. Same shit with you. You can choose to have better security. Just because you don't, doesn't make it right for someone to break in.

  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:09AM (#39245245)

    I would agree with you on that if corporate CEOs and pretty much everyone who makes over a million dollars a year hadn't set the precedent that defrauding thousands of people at a time comes only with a slap on the wrist and a meager fine despite a huge profit margin.

    Shit, that's the definition of how corporate America works. Why aren't they jailing the CEOs of the cable companies instead for charging >5000 times the amount they pay for bandwidth for the average user? Why aren't they jailing the AT&T and Verizon execs for bait-and-switch with the 'Unlimited' plans which are actually limited to single-digit bandwidth amounts?

    It's all ass-backward, and this guy just had the balls to do something about it. Do your time, but do it proudly.

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:10AM (#39245251)

    It is slightly different in that he did provide customer support in cracking the network. Even so I wonder how this will do on appeal.

  • Re:hrm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brit74 (831798) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:12AM (#39245257)
    Any loss would come from the loss of a potential sale, but as most [sic] file sharing either is done by people who would never pay for the stuff they download (no lost sale) or by people that buys the downloaded material later when it becomes available, there's usually no loss involved and thus no theft.

    I'd actually argue that most filesharing is done by people who wouldn't pay for it and there's still a loss involved.

    For example, let's imagine a thought experiment: if a company is selling 100,000 copies of some digital media product and then piracy comes along and now 1 million people are pirating it and only 50,000 copies are being sold. We could say that piracy halved the sales - causing a "loss" of 50,000 sales. However, since there are 1 million people pirating it, we could calculate that 95% of them (950,000/1,000,000) wouldn't have bought it. The fact that most of them wouldn't have bought it doesn't change the fact that it caused the sales to be cut in half. Heck, if piracy became the norm, and let's assume that all the sales disappeared (i.e. a loss of 100,000 sales) then we could still truthfully say that "90% of them wouldn't have bought it". My point being: even if you can truthfully say that most of them wouldn't have bought it doesn't mean that it doesn't produce lost sales.

    (And just to head-off the "potential sales aren't real they're purely fictional" argument that someone might want to throw my way - if anyone believes that, then they should argue that copyright should never have existed in the first place and corporations should've always been allowed to print all the books they want and sell all the software they want and sell all the movies they can - because it only means a "potential" loss for the creators and corporations should be allowed to pocket all the money for themselves.)
  • Re:Bad design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:20AM (#39245291)
    Cable modems actually solved that a long time ago. The modems themselves are the authentication token - they each have a unique private key embedded in them, and the network uses that. Or rather, should use that - the type of impersonation attack that the article describes is only possible if the ISP has disabled encryption on their network (I'm assuming it's some version of DOCSIS), which is just really stupid of them.
  • Re:hrm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:23AM (#39245313) Homepage

    Are you really as retarded as you are making yourself out to be, or do you actually not understand something this basic?

    By using research without paying for it, you aren't piggybacking on another person's discoveries, you're using up the limited* funding in the field. By not paying, and essentially being an unknown factor to the business providing the R&D investment, you are lowering the return on investment for every other researcher. If not through reducing sales of a final product, it's by crowding their publishable papers out with your own, in a given issue of a journal.

    * Regardless of how big the wallets are, the investors do need to calculate just how much return they will see from the research projects they are funding. Adding a few hundred extra competitors to a market without accounting for them can be a big difference for the feasibility projection of a project. Add thousands of unaccounted clones & derivatives, and you can have a massive marketability problem that will be extremely hard to track down, and costly to locate and fix.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:28AM (#39245343)

    I mean -- 20 years for a simple financial fraud thing. In other countries, murder is less.

    No wonder you have a considerable fraction of your population in jail [wikipedia.org].

    Scary.

  • Re:seven courts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:34AM (#39245361)

    Thank you for quoting me accurately!

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:48AM (#39245417)

    Why aren't they jailing the CEOs of the cable companies instead for charging >5000 times the amount they pay for bandwidth for the average user?

    I bet it'd be a different story if this guy had significant campaign contributions. It'd be a "Misunderstanding" of some sort.

  • Re:Bad design (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:49AM (#39245423)

    He was impersonating modems using sniffed MAC addresses, which is only possible if the network is running without encryption

    Are you sure about this? Many encryption schemes only encrypt the payload, not link-level headers, such as the MAC address. Or how else would the modem be able to figure out which packets are for itself, and which aren't? Attempting to decrypt every packet (including those not intended for it) would be a huge performance drain.

  • by Corbets (169101) on Monday March 05, 2012 @03:55AM (#39245445) Homepage

    I would agree with you on that if corporate CEOs and pretty much everyone who makes over a million dollars a year hadn't set the precedent that defrauding thousands of people at a time comes only with a slap on the wrist and a meager fine despite a huge profit margin.

    Shit, that's the definition of how corporate America works. Why aren't they jailing the CEOs of the cable companies instead for charging >5000 times the amount they pay for bandwidth for the average user? Why aren't they jailing the AT&T and Verizon execs for bait-and-switch with the 'Unlimited' plans which are actually limited to single-digit bandwidth amounts?

    It's all ass-backward, and this guy just had the balls to do something about it. Do your time, but do it proudly.

    Why aren't they also jailing each of the individual loan officers who sold mortgages to customers who couldn't pay them back? They were, perhaps, more directly responsible than the CEOs, and yet also directly benefited (commissions or bonuses, depending how such things work at each institution).

    That question is also your answer. There is a very large chain of people involved in the financial crisis, and it's unlikely that any single one of them can be apportioned enough blame to go to jail.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Monday March 05, 2012 @04:08AM (#39245487) Journal

    It depresses me that people think that some people it takes material profit in order to make fraud and theft of service immoral. Apparently you can't commit a crime against a rich person, unless you become one in the process.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 05, 2012 @04:17AM (#39245523)

    Why aren't they jailing the CEOs of the cable companies instead for charging >5000 times the amount they pay for bandwidth for the average user?

    Because thats neither fraud nor any other crime - its not illegal to not base your prices on your costs. The cable companies can charge what they like for their product.

    Why aren't they jailing the AT&T and Verizon execs for bait-and-switch with the 'Unlimited' plans which are actually limited to single-digit bandwidth amounts?

    Now that's a better example, and one I can't give an answer to.

    It's all ass-backward, and this guy just had the balls to do something about it. Do your time, but do it proudly.

    Sorry, but that's just a pathetic excuse for this guys actions, he didn't do anything justifiable or the be proud of.

  • not necessarily (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weezul (52464) on Monday March 05, 2012 @04:47AM (#39245629)

    We should never outlaw creating tools like lockpicks, knives, cable modem sniffers, or CPUs able to run unsigned code. We should only outlaw specific usages of said tool.

    A priori, there is nothing wrong with explaining how such tools work either, but aiding customers with the specifics of their particular cable provider could eventually cross the line into conspiracy to commit wire fraud, just like helping a robber a house's door would become conspiracy to commit robbery.

    I therefore hope they convicted him on specific instances of technical support he provided which unambiguously made him a conspirator in specific customer's wire fraud. And I hope he wins back his freedom on appeal if they convicted him on any other grounds.

    In fact, we should discuss the physical plans for equipment and software which he sold here because I'm sure we're curious what exactly he sold. Anyone got links to DIY kits? We should add this stuff to thepiratebay.se's physibles section : http://thepiratebay.se/blog/203

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 05, 2012 @04:52AM (#39245641)

    Those that walked in to various loans, eyes wide shut? Or those who took loans they couldn't afford because they figured they'd just flip the house and make money?

    The idea that individuals were completely blameless in the financial crisis is silly. Sure there were some people who were suckered in. They were told one thing and given another. For them I have some sympathy (though really, there's a standard loan terms sheet that comes with every loan, it isn't hard to read). However there were plenty that got greedy and just ignored all good sense.

    An example would be my cousin, call him B. He owned a house that he'd had for quite some time, around 8-10 years on a 30 year fixed mortgage he could afford. then things went crazy and he decided he's take all his equity out in a refinance so that he could buy a bunch of new toys like a truck, take an expensive vacation, shit like that. His loan amount went way up because he was taking out more than the original loan had been for since his house was allegedly worth more. He couldn't afford a fixed loan at that rate so he got a cut rate ARM. Then prices crashed, the rate went up, and he lost his house. Not only should have he known better, my dad (among others) told him this was a stupid idea.

    Then there's me, I have a house that I had since before things went crazy, on a 30 year fixed mortgage that I can afford. It supposedly doubled in value during the craziness. I could have taken a ton of money out. I didn't, because I knew that was a bad idea. I still have my house, and I can still afford my loan.

    We were both in a similar situation, he chose one option, I chose another. Nobody held a gun to anyone's head and forced the issue.

    The crisis was caused by failures and greed at so many levels. The government, the bond rating companies, the investors, the banks, the loan officers, and yes the individuals. You can't just act like a certain group were the evil ones who caused everything. There is a lot of blame to go around.

    Now if you just want to start locking everyone up, I guess that's a valid position, but you might want to ask how well that's work in, say, the drug war.

  • by andsens (1658865) on Monday March 05, 2012 @04:57AM (#39245649)

    don't to the crime if you cant do the time

    I know, but 20 years?!?! Are they serious? That is an insane amount of time for a non-violent crime!

  • Re:hrm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Monday March 05, 2012 @05:36AM (#39245779)

    I am not addressing this. I am addressing the claim that they have suffered damages. Which the onus is on them to prove. I merely laid out an error in common reasoning about how they calculate damages.

  • by Cat_Herder_GoatRoper (2491400) on Monday March 05, 2012 @05:37AM (#39245781)
    20 years for each count he could do 140 (a death sentence) for a non-violent crime.
  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:37AM (#39246017) Journal

    Personal responsibility is important (it certainly kept me out of a mess in this regard), but when people from every side are trying to trick you from every side, you eventually slip. These people know your financial situation, - they see your records, and in most cases, are probably better trained to understand it than you. Yet they try to put you in a situation that is above your head, and screws whoever they sell the loan to, for their own profit. Yeah, they should be held responsible as well, not instead of.

    It's a bit beyond the magnitude of a super-sized meal, a $20 stack of disks, or a V8 car...

  • by flyneye (84093) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:41AM (#39246033) Homepage

    Because Mr. Harris didn't make any "political contributions" and Cable companies are on a first name basis with Repubmocrat legislators.
    Further Mr. Harris charged a fee for helping gain free internet access. Hackers put up this info for free on the internet. I notice they aren't being charged either.
    Nope, this was a case of regulating commerce and example making. Have your contribution ready 'cause you have to buy the right to make money here in the U.S.

  • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:17AM (#39246175) Journal

    "shooting targets" might be a nice hobby, but it's not very practical.

    The purpose of the item being sold does not have to be practical. Recurve bows and arrows have no "practical" use, and are only particularly useful for target practice. In fact, recurve bows are even less useful than hand guns for hunting.

    As well, handguns have another perfectly legal reason for purchase and ownership: protection, and defense.

    There is no way that gun manufacturers aren't aware of those statistics, yet they keep on allowing their products being sold in shops.

    Being aware the statistics about misuse of your item does not mean that you are criminally liable. The manufacturers of oxycodone are certainly aware of the high rate of abuse of their drug, shall we hold them responsible criminally for the abuse of their drug?

    With this jurisprudence, gun manufacturers are just as guilty. Either that, or someone got wrongly convicted here.

    This jurisprudence is not precedent setting. Gun manufacturers are already, and have long been subject to the conditions under which this individual was charged.

    There was sufficiently established evidence that this individual was selling a product that had no legal purpose. Guns have well recognized legal purposes. And weapons manufacturers are not concerned about this case... like I said, this case hinged on already well established legal precedents, and the gun manufacturer lawyers have long been aware of these details.

    But then, as usual, anything legal happens, and slashdot armchair lay lawyers are ready to jump out of the woodwork with specious legal theories, and pretend like shit means more than it actually does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:34AM (#39246273)

    Just Rebuplicans?

    Corporations firmly control both parts of the one party system.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:49AM (#39246351)

    A parasite on the cable companies is not going to be able to match the magnitude of the campaign contributions of said cable companies. Whoever makes a decision by looking at such things is going to say "Hmmm. Campaign contributions from cable companies >= Gross amount of your theft... kthxbye."

  • by subreality (157447) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:20AM (#39246571)

    I'm tired of "stealing" getting applied to every instance of "underhandedly doing something you weren't supposed to".

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday March 05, 2012 @10:30AM (#39248039) Homepage

    In the old days, there was an obvious means to discourage a loan officer from loaning you money that you could not pay back. If you failed to repay, then he or at least his company was on the hook. There was none of this shuffling off bad debt onto other people.

    Although even that practice didn't completely trash our economy.

    No. It took rampant pervasive corruption of ratings agencies to do that.

    The current approach to doing business is simply not sustainable regardless of how you view the situation in moral or ethical terms.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

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