In Defense of Executing Hackers

Hackers, along with military actions and destructive weather, are among the greatest threats we currently face. Right, maybe North Korea will launch a nuke or a pandemic lurks around the corner. Maybe an asteroid, alien invasion or zombie apocalypse is imminent. Maybes aside, the threat posed by hackers is here now.

Having been part of the software industry and present as data centers transformed from a rack in a closet to huge buildings that contain nearly everything we hold dear, I’ve been involved (from the target side) for many years. I know one of the arguments is that targets deserve it since they leave holes for attackers. I had a discussion with a black hat turned white (tho his comments made me question his true nature) who told me exactly that. I replied that by that logic, I should be allowed to shoot out the tires on his car while on the road since they were known weaknesses that he had not addressed.

Whether it’s kids looking to embarrass companies, rival firms conducting industrial espionage or state-sponsored acts of war, the time for slapping hands or rewarding them by hiring them has to end. How many lives will have been destroyed by the time the Equifax leak runs its course? How many have been destroyed by other leaks? How many families lost homes or jobs? With self-driving cars, drone delivered hamburgers and auto-piloted buses already in play, how many more people will be affected?

Right now, we’ve been told our government can spy on us through our phones and laptops. They record the “metadata” of every phone call and probably every text we send. Yet we’re supposed to believe they don’t have the resources to stop or most times, catch hackers.

It’s time to up the game. Make mass break-ins a capital crime if it involves personal data or results in loss of life or significant property damage. Yeah, sounds like hyperbole but if the deterrent is strong enough – and actually used – perhaps some will think twice. Most likely, state actors will continue – most will be out of reach of the courts. The others, however, can be brought to trial.

If we say that murder and rape are both crimes against people that rise to the level of punishments that include execution, why not crimes that destroy multiple lives and livelihoods? It’s not enough to lock them up for a few years and restrain them from computers. As devices move into every facet of our lives, how can that punishment even expect to be enforced?

It is drastic. Perhaps draconian. It’s also necessary. Use the “special circumstances” rules. If GM can put a value on a human life and use that figure to determine if they should correct faulty parts in cars, courts can do the same thing in determining if a hacker’s crimes rise to the level of a executable offense. When they do, the punishment needs to be enforced and publicized. Hackers need to understand what they face.

After the first couple have their day on the gurney, I’ll bet fewer will be willing to hack for the “lulz”.

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~ by Mad Prophet on September 22, 2017.

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