Punish real cyber villains

New readers of this publication will have much sympathy for hacker Gary McKinnon who was recommended for extradition to the US by a judge last week. But the wise will question the effect McKinnon’s potential sentence will have on those tempted to follow in his footsteps.

New readers of this publication will have much sympathy for hacker Gary McKinnon who was recommended for extradition to the US by a judge last week. But the wise will question the effect McKinnon’s potential sentence will have on those tempted to follow in his footsteps.

 

McKinnon has admitted hacking into US military networks for a period of almost two years, claiming he did so to find evidence about anti-gravity and free energy devices found in crashed UFOs.

 

His defence is that he was just a bumbling computer nerd, who became addicted to hacking. He has also claimed that since he could log on to top secret networks without a password, the US military had no security to begin with.

 

It is a defence that will be rehearsed in the appeal courts and possibly all the way to the Home Secretary’s desk. But while the prospect of 60 years in a US jail might act as a deterrent to old-school bedroom-based hackers, these people should be last millennium’s problem.

 

The biggest hacking threat to businesses today comes from organised crime. Some 89% of UK firms were the target of e-criminals last year, according to research conducted by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. The latest Department of Trade and Industry Security Breaches Survey puts the cost of computer crime at £10bn a year.

 

The ability of fraudsters to skim the details of chip and Pin cards and siphon millions from consumers’ bank accounts and the attempt by a gang to use a keyboard logging Trojan horse to spy on desktop computers at Sumitomo, the Japanese banking group, to steal £220m in 2005 show where the real risks lie.

 

In this world McKinnon is small fry and harsh punishment for him is unlikely to have any deterrent effect on those behind the growing tide of cyber crime.

 

Read leader article: Punish real cyber villians

 

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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