The Laws, Fines and Penalties Facing Hackers
Hack a computer, go to jail, at least that's what the Bush
administration is hoping for. In November 2003, new federal rules
took effect which will take away much of the sentencing discretion
judges have had in hacker cases. Instead of the common probation
sentence, hackers, virus and worm writers could get 20 years to life
in federal prison.
Who Will Get Caught in the Net?
Federal rules now mandate that a person who uses computers to cause
death or bodily harm can get the maximum sentence. Said to be aimed
primarily at cyber-terrorists, and not at "teen hackers", the harsh
sentences are reserved for those who bring down power grids or airport
However, viruses and worms are not selective, and the systems that they infect
do include critical control networks. 2003's major northeast power
outage was at least complicated by, if not caused by, a worm which
was making its way through power control systems. If caught, the
author of this worm could well face life in prison.
Blaster Worm Penalties
18 year old Jeffrey Lee Parsons is accused of unleashing a variation of
the Blaster Windows worm, and will face real jail time due to the new
guidelines. This blaster worm infected hundreds of thousands of
computers in August 2003. It was able to spread world-wide in just
six minutes, and cost millions of dollars in damage and lost business.
Even Microsoft itself was harmed by the virus. Its revenue dropped $768
million dollars due to its customers concerns over security
Sentences Increased For Stolen Identities
Most maximum prison sentences handed down for hacking will range from
one to ten years. Under the new guidelines hackers will face a 25
percent increase in their sentences if they steal personal
information, and a 50 percent increase if they share the stolen
information. If the information is posted on the Internet, their
sentences can double.
Those who write and distribute viruses and worms will face a 50
percent increase in their sentence. A double penalty will also apply
to those who break into government, military, or computers tied into
the power or telecommunications grids.
Breaking into a bank account will provide a penalty based upon the
amount of money in the account. If the hacker actually takes the
money, the judges can tack on a 50 percent increase.