Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sentences for Hackers: A Modest Proposal

No Internet, no electricity, only computer on the island
As a Christian I am obliged to hate the sin and love the sinner, but the truth is, I find that very very hard to do with hackers. These slimy little basement dwelling weasels have caused me to break my rule about name-calling.

In the middle of the night last night some @#$%@ charged $900 worth of video games to my bank debit card. Because I work nights and check my email frequently watching for payments from various clients, I caught the charge moments after the charge was made. I stopped payment within minutes and changed passwords on all my financial accounts by dawn's early light! 

I'm careful about how I make online purchases, so this wasn't my fault. One of the companies I do business with, CafePress got itself hacked. I got a letter from them a few days ago telling me hackers had got my card #, passwords, address and whatever else I had on file. I've been watching my accounts closely ever since and last night I was glad I did. I don't think there will be any damage. Bank of America is removing any charges resulting from the hack, but it will be at least 4 days before I can access my bank account. It's not fatal, but it's extremely inconvenient and irritating. BOA has canceled my old card and has a new one on the way. Now all I have to do is delete my old card from Amazon, Kaiser Permanente, eBay, Paypal, Walmart and a few others I regularly do business with online.

I also contacted the video game merchant, Steamgames, and they were unusually solicitous. They have an 24 hour automated number that lets you report if the company has charged your account for something that you didn't buy. They collect a little info - enough to identify the transaction - and assure you they will not charge you. It remains to be seen if they actually withdraw the charge. This presents two possibilities for why Steamgames would have a special punch this number option on their 800 number:

  1. Hackers steal personal IDs so they can buy a lot of video games which sounds plausible. If you sell video games, it stands to reason hackers would use their ill-gotten booty to buy your product. An honest retailer of video games would, therefore work hard to insure they weren't participating in fraud and identity theft. 
  2. The other possibility is that Steamgames itself is sponsoring or at least encouraging the hacking and running fraudulent charges through their company. If they get caught at it, they cancel the charge - no harm, no foul.  If they don't get caught, then they make off with the dough and don't even have to provide any games. 
I am a suspicious person living as I do in, what I believe, are the last days of Earth. Naughtiness abounds. Hackers in particular cause millions of dollars in direct and indirect damage to individuals and companies. They hide in basements and cast their webs like spiders. If they get caught, their sentences are ridiculously small by and large. I would, therefore like to recommend this sentencing strategy.
  • If an theft of information affects a thousand people, then each person violated should be considered as a separate case with a separate sentence for each.
  • Sentences should be served consecutively. In other words, if you steal the information of 1,000 people and the usual sentence is 18 months in prison, then multiply 18 months by 1,000 victims and the hacker gets 1500 years incarceration.
  • There should be a special prison for hackers. They should be put on an island in the midst of shark-infested waters. The island would have no electricity, no Internet, no phones - just farming tools and some bags of fertilizer and seed (I suggest beets and rutabagas.). There should be a dump on the island containing discarded Commodore 64s and Radio Shack TRS-80s, just to torment them. I can see them sitting under a scraggly tree, tapping morosely at an elderly keyboard.
I hate thinking like that, but sadly, I know too many basement dwelling weasels and their kind. Banishment and marooning on a deserted island is too good for them. Still we don't want to be vicious and cruel. Okay, diabolical maybe?

© 2019 by Tom King

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