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Lawmakers Say CFAA Is Too Hard On Hackers 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-hackers? dept.
GovTechGuy writes "A number of lawmakers are using the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz to speak out against the Justice Department's handling of the case, and application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The controversy surrounding the Swartz case could finally give activists the momentum they need to halt the steady increase in penalties for even minor computer crimes."
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Lawmakers Say CFAA Is Too Hard On Hackers

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  • by whydavid (2593831) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:14AM (#42894729)
    If this were a Chinese-American hacker stealing schematics from Raytheon we'd all be happy to see the harshest threats/penalties applied. The issue here was bullying at the DOJ. You can't fix that with a few tweaks to the law, and if you lower maximum penalties you will find yourself regretting it when someone actually does do something worthy of those maximum penalties. And if you close these holes, aren't they just going to find others? You have issues with behaviors/attitudes at DOJ that need to be fixed, not just a few sentences in a statute. So, sure, maybe they should tweak the laws a bit; but how does that fix the oversight issues? Seems like a nice way to convince everyone they "did something" without actually fixing the issue.
  • by elucido (870205) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:01AM (#42895055)

    They don't even care about the hacker community. They don't even understand what the hacker community is or what it's about. They view all hackers as cyber terrorists and criminals. They view anyone with certain skills are criminal. You can't even get a CEH certification and put it on your resume without getting funny looks and having people think you're a criminal. They view Slashdot as a place where e-terrorists and criminals go to talk about their cyber wizardry.

    Seriously, hackers are like warlocks and witches and the only thing the governments want to do is persecute them all. They wont work with hackers, they wont let hackers help them without threatening to ruin their lives or using harsh bullying tactics. Hackers who don't cooperate with them seem to end up charged with rape, child porn, or just a bunch of bullshit charges that prosecutors can find to leverage on them to try to break them.

    Why are hackers treated so bad if hackers are so important to the whole cyberwarfare scenario? Hackers no matter how patriotic they are get treated like criminals and terrorists and because of this no patriotic hacker community can try to survive.

  • by elucido (870205) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:12AM (#42895143)

    If this were a Chinese-American hacker stealing schematics from Raytheon we'd all be happy to see the harshest threats/penalties applied. The issue here was bullying at the DOJ. You can't fix that with a few tweaks to the law, and if you lower maximum penalties you will find yourself regretting it when someone actually does do something worthy of those maximum penalties. And if you close these holes, aren't they just going to find others? You have issues with behaviors/attitudes at DOJ that need to be fixed, not just a few sentences in a statute. So, sure, maybe they should tweak the laws a bit; but how does that fix the oversight issues? Seems like a nice way to convince everyone they "did something" without actually fixing the issue.

    Those penalties wont stop people from doing it. If it's a cyberwar and nation states are sponsoring it then no amount of harsh penalties will have any affect. If it's not that then the harsh penalties will have the wrong effect on the wrong people.

    Being tough doesn't really DO anything. It's all about looking tough but it doesn't DO anything but hurt people so you can look a certain way to some other people. Looking tough is the problem. The solution to this problem is REALLY simple. The solution is a tigher and better hacker community. If the US government wants patriotic hackers then it's up to them to actually promote that kind of hacker community and you aren't going to promote that by persecuting hackers. You promote that by rewarding the heroes and patriots (which never seems to happen). When a hacker does something heroic or patriotic he or she is rewarded with a jail penalty, a blacklisting from the industry, loss of the right to own a gun, to vote, etc.

  • by elucido (870205) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:26AM (#42895261)

    Even since Operation Sundevil, the US has had this COMPLETELY counterproductive policy of hounding talented crackers out of existence, rather than nurturing their talent. Utterly stupid, IMHO, and frankly, the people responsible for creating and enforcing this stupid policy should be ashamed of themselves.

    The Chinese have this 'thousand grains of sand' thing they do, where they nurture a huge and thriving computer underground (rather than turning them all in involuntary organ donors as they would). They're sent out to smash and grab everything they can from the West, where anything garnered is processed through a specially designed intelligence gathering system, where useful material is routed to local companies and government decision makers.

    Granted, the Chinese Communist Party has no morals, but we are in the world we live in, and we have to do the same to compete. I guarantee that if I had any kind of policy input anywhere, I'd be doing exactly this.

    At the end of the day, we have a choice: we can either fight with all the tools in our arsenal and shape the world in the West's image -- a relatively peaceful prosperous and moral place. Or we can let the Chinese Communist Party turn it into a quasi-criminal dictatorial dystopia. It's really our choice. In any case, it's the height of suicidal stupidity to fight our enemies with our hands tied behind our backs.

    Here is the problem. The USA does compete but treats it's hackers and crackers like trash and although I cannot say China is any better, the USA has the tools to do much better than this. The USA still controls the internet itself. The USA could basically get the vast majority and practically all the best hackers and crackers on their side. The USA kinda does this but does it in a way which makes the hacker community hate or fear the US government. Fear can get people to cooperate with you but too much and they hate, the US government likes to use fear, threats, etc.

    In the case of Aaron Swartz the US government was willing to use threats to try to scare him into submission. Why not appeal to some of the better emotions? On top of that, if there really is some cyber war and the situation is so desperate and there really aren't people with enough skill then the people who show any sort of talent at all shouldn't be put in prison. In World War 2 the Italian Mafia was recruited by the CIA to fight the fascists. In this example these were criminals but the point is, the US was always the most dirty of dirty at war, it's just the current iteration of the US government is secretly still dirty but in public trying to put on this impression of "tough on crime" and hatred of hackers which makes no logical sense. Ultimately these hackers CAN support the US war operations so demonizing them for what?

    There has to be a clear separation between cyber-criminal and hacker. Hackers care about ethics and want to support what they believe is right whether they think it's the USA (patriotism) or social justice. Cybercriminals just want to make money and hack for the sake of hacking.

  • by wienerschnizzel (1409447) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:33AM (#42895311)

    Then he should be prosecuted for what he actually did. You seem to conflate the means to commit a crime with the crime itself. If you stab a person in the back, you get persecuted for murdering a person, not for wielding a knife.

    No. You get prosecuted for murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a murder, wielding a knife, trespassing, aggravated assault, unlicensed practice of surgery, jaywalking, wearing blue jeans on Sunday and 25 other remotely applicable transgressions and ridiculous ancient county laws.

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