Business Technology: Don't Turn That Cheek To Hackers--Be Unchic
So what do we do with Jeffrey Parson, the 18-year-old whose Blaster variant attacked 7,000 computers last month?
So what do we do with Jeffrey Parson, the 18-year-old whose Blaster variant attacked 7,000 computers last month? Technically, he faces one count of intentionally causing damage to a protected computer. And if that charge sticks, he could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Is that what's deserved by Parson and other loathsome bastards--also known by the inappropriately benign designation of hacker--like him who use their technical skills to attack and damage computers and the organizations those computers support? While we're at it, let's put this in perspective: Parson's malicious actions affected about 7,000 computers, while the original Blaster and all its variants wreaked havoc on about 500,000. So is it all a matter of degree? That is, if we catch the miscreants who created the original Blaster, should their punishment be 70 times as severe as Parson's?
I'm not being silly here. This new hobby espoused by a growing number of highly dangerous punks is on the verge of gaining celebrity status within segments of our sometimes-warped culture. Once that takes hold, will it be easier or harder to catch, try, convict, and punish these criminals? I can just see Katie Couric or Larry King gushing over Jeffrey Parson, nudging his traumatized psyche forward so he can bare his pain so that we, too, can share in his struggle against the awful forces that made him do it, and so we can shed a tear for him as we empathize with his victimhood. And for the clincher, Katie or Oprah will lower her voice and lean forward and perhaps even put a hand ever so gently on his knee as the riveted audience watches breathlessly while she intones, "Jeffrey, if you had it to do all over again, you wouldn't unleash that virus, would you? And--look at me, Jeffrey--you've learned your lesson and been punished enough already, haven't you?" And later that evening, Larry King will tilt forward and say, "Jeffrey, I know you're hurting inside and we all feel for you, but it's my job to ask the tough questions, so here goes: You've clearly got terrific skills that a lot of companies would love to have, but how do they get in touch with you? Will you give me permission to give the folks your E-mail address so they can contact you to schedule job interviews?"
In the movie Casino, Robert DeNiro's character catches a couple of guys trying to scam one of his games. So his goons haul the two cheaters into a back room, and one of them is forced to sit with his hands splayed out on a table. Then one of the goons lifts a big hammer and pulverizes those hands--repeatedly. We aren't told, but my guess is that guy's cheating days ended then and there.
Now, that's clearly fantasy, and Parson and his Blaster are reality, and in a civilized society we don't dispense that sort of retribution. But what if one of those 7,000 affected computers were in a medical office and caused a critically ill patient's treatment to be delayed? What if an attacked computer caused a business to lose a big order, resulting in some people being laid off? Consider those and other possibilities as you review these remarks Parson made to MSNBC: "This is the first time I have ever had a run-in with the law. It's hurtful to see the accounts of me.... I understand that the government needs to catch someone for these crimes. I'm not the one they need to get."
For once, Jeffrey, I gotta agree with you; you're not "the one." You're just one of many. And I hope that after the FBI corrals the rest of your fellow losers, a jury convicts you on all counts and you all get the maximum penalty the law allows. Because it's time to re-establish, with profound clarity, that computer sabotage is dangerous and malicious, and it's not chic or trendy or counterculturally glamorous; rather, it's 100% wrong, and it needs to be wiped out.
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