"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.