… or, how selective prosecution of computer crimes is causing more problems then it’s solving.
Allow me to introduce you to two script kiddies: David Kernell and Michael Mooney. One of which is currently on trial for accessing computers in an unauthorized manner, the other is currently scott free for doing the same. Why is one being prosecuted for his crimes while the other is not? I think it’s a symptom of a larger problem in the legal system in the United States.
Now, today, Kernell is currently awaiting trial for his crimes in a Federal court in Knoxville. Mooney would have long faded into obscurity in my mind, but he decided to do some Google vanity searches on himself, came across my article, and decided to convince himself that I was somehow jealous of his… hmm… nope, not sure on that one, but anyway… After telling him in no uncertain terms about what I thought of him, we got in a classic Internet argument.
After dealing with his inane ramblings and him trying trying to convince me that despite him admitting what he did broke the law what he did wasn’t illegal (Obviously, Mooney retained Erwin Schrödinger as counsel), I got to wondering why is Mooney free to drink Martinis, watch the sun rise, and fancy himself as some kind of security consultant, while Kernell is currently staring down a sentence in FPMITA prison? I understand that the Feds don’t have the time and inclination to investigate every little event, but the facts that Mooney admitted to doing it, his information is publicly available (Heck! Check his Twitter stream or his website and find his mobile number!), and that he’s admitted to breaking the law, the Feds are saying that while it’s not OK to break into a Vice Presidential candidate’s e-mail, you can hijack thousands of user’s computers to promote your website and get away with it, provided you don’t do anything really nasty.
Something that has always concerned me is the selective prosecution of one computer crime and not of another. As someone who deals with the endless streams of attacks and scans coming down the SuperInfoBahn, “getting the bad guys” is a all too infrequent event. When incidents like the Mikeyy worm go un-prosecuted I feel that we are continuing to send the message to people that compromising a computer, website, or whatever, is fine provided that, you know, don’t do anything really bad, whatever that means. I think we’re essentially already looking at the Fixing Broken Windows theory at work: we’re not going after the crimes when their small, and thus, we’re continuing to see problems escalate. While I’m not suggesting that if we go after the small crimes we’ll see ZeuS drop off the face of the planet next week, it might start to take a bite out of younger people trying to compromise each other via Rouge Neopets Paintbrush Generators.
I don’t know how it’s come to be that Kernell is being prosecuted while Mooney is not, I’m sure going after such a high profile target under USSS protection definitely made it hard for Kernell to slide back into obscurity. I’m not suggesting that Kernell be let off the hook for his crimes, but, I don’t think anyone can disagree that it’s fair that Mooney isn’t being held responsible for his crimes, while Kernell is.