[ISN] Norway Court Backs Internet Hackers

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 14 1999 - 22:24:05 PST

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    Forwarded From: telecon <teleconat_private>
    03:15 PM ET 01/13/99
    Norway Court Backs Internet Hackers
    Associated Press Writer
              OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway could become a haven for hackers
    after its Supreme Court ruled that trying to break into a computer over
    the Internet is not a crime until the system is actually breached, experts
    said Wednesday. 
               In the decision, believed to be the first of its kind, the
    court last month said those connecting a computer to the Internet must
    expect that outsiders will seek ways to enter their system and that it is
    the owners' responsibility to protect their computers.
               But critics said the ruling is comparable to allowing a burglar
    to check all the doors and windows of a house for locks and not
    prosecuting them until they actually break in. 
               In theory, hackers in Norway can now legally search computers
    anywhere in the world for security holes. Such information could then be
    passed on to other hackers for possible illegal use. 
               The ruling arose from a 1995 case against a company that
    specializes in computer security. An Oslo-based company, Norman Data
    Defense Systems, sought ways to break into the University of Oslo's
    computers through the Internet for a news report by the Norwegian state
    broadcasting network NRK. 
               Norman attorney Kai Thoergersen said in an interview Wednesday
    that the company simply mapped holes in the computers' security systems,
    without breaking in, tampering or stealing any information. 
               The university sued, and a lower court ordered Norman to pay
    $13,500 for violating a law against hacking into computers. Norman
    appealed, and the case reached the Supreme Court, which dismissed the
    fine, partly because the company had not broken into the computer. 
               Norman claimed it did nothing more than what any Internet users
    do each time they search the global network for information. 
               However, Arne Laukholm, director of Information Technology for
    the University of Oslo, said the ruling opens the way for systematic and
    malicious attacks on computers. He said protecting computers hooked up to
    the global network against such hacking is difficult and expensive. 
               Dave Farber, a computer expert at the University of
    Pennsylvania, called it ``a bad precedent'' that could allow hackers to
    operate legally in Norway, even if their actions violated other nations'
               The ruling was made Dec. 15, but the court did not publish its
    basis for the decision until this month. 
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