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Risk

7/12/2005
10:19 AM
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Death To Hackers!

What's the appropriate punishment for convicted hackers, a 21-month suspended sentence including 30 hours of community service, death, or something worse?

What's the appropriate punishment for convicted hackers, a 21-month suspended sentence including 30 hours of community service, death, or something worse?New York Times columnist John Tierney, in an op-ed article in Tuesday's edition, suggests a sentence of death would be appropriate for German teenager Sven Jaschan, convicted of releasing the Sasser worm, at least from an economic standpoint. A German judge gave Jaschan the 21-month suspended sentence.

"I'm almost convinced by [University of Rochester economist] Steven Landsburg's cost-benefit analysis showing that the spreaders of computer viruses and worms are more logical candidates for capital punishment than murderers are," Tierney writes. Citing Landsburg's research, Tierney says executing murders yields a nearly $100 million benefit to society. The social cost of hacking: $50 billion a year. But Tierney concedes executing hackers isn't a viable option. So, he concludes, the punishment should be something worse.

The experts Tierney interviewed weren't sure that any punishment could fit the crime, but they had several suggestions: "Make the hacker spend 16 hours a day fielding help-desk inquiries in an AOL chat room for computer novices," Tierney writes. "Force him to do this with a user name at least as uncool as KoolDude and to work on a vintage IBM PC with a 2400-baud dial-up connection. Most painful of all for any geek, make him use Windows 95 for the rest of his life."

That's a punishment worse than death.

 

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