[ISN] Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Sep 25 2001 - 01:02:18 PDT

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    [I never thought I would see the day when one could drive drunk, plow
    into a Chevy Impala full of nuns, kill them all, and under this
    proposed legislation, that party could likely serve less time in
    prison than some poor misguided kid hacking into a .gov or .mil server
    to send a shout-out to his friends in an IRC channel. While I am for
    prosecuting malicious crackers, this act goes way overboard.  - WK]
    Justice Department proposal classifies most computer crimes as acts of
    By Kevin Poulsen
    Sep 23 2001 11:00PM PT
    Hackers, virus-writers and web site defacers would face life
    imprisonment without the possibility of parole under legislation
    proposed by the Bush Administration that would classify most computer
    crimes as acts of terrorism.
    The Justice Department is urging Congress to quickly approve its
    Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), a twenty-five page proposal that would
    expand the government's legal powers to conduct electronic
    surveillance, access business records, and detain suspected
    The proposal defines a list of "Federal terrorism offenses" that are
    subject to special treatment under law. The offenses include
    assassination of public officials, violence at international airports,
    some bombings and homicides, and politically-motivated manslaughter or
    Most of the terrorism offenses are violent crimes, or crimes involving
    chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. But the list also includes
    the provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that make it
    illegal to crack a computer for the purpose of obtaining anything of
    value, or to deliberately cause damage. Likewise, launching a
    malicious program that harms a system, like a virus, or making an
    extortionate threat to damage a computer are included in the
    definition of terrorism.
    To date no terrorists are known to have violated the Computer Fraud
    and Abuse Act. But several recent hacker cases would have qualified as
    "Federal terrorism offenses" under the Justice Department proposal,
    including the conviction of Patrick Gregory, a prolific web site
    defacer who called himself "MostHateD"; Kevin Mitnick, who plead
    guilty to penetrating corporate networks and downloading proprietary
    software; Jonathan "Gatsby" Bosanac, who received 18-months in custody
    for cracking telephone company computers; and Eric Burns, the
    Shoreline, Washington hacker who scrawled "Crystal, I love you" on a
    United States Information Agency web site in 1999. The 19-year-old was
    reportedly trying to impress a classmate with whom he was infatuated.
    The Justice Department submitted the ATA to Congress late last week as
    a response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York,
    Washington and Pennsylvania that killed some 7,000 people.
    As a "Federal terrorism offense," the five year statute of limitations
    for hacking would be abolished retroactively -- allowing computer
    crimes committed decades ago to be prosecuted today -- and the maximum
    prison term for a single conviction would be upped to life
    imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal justice system
    Those convicted of providing "advice or assistance" to cyber crooks,
    or harboring or concealing a computer intruder, would face the same
    legal repercussions as an intruder. Computer intrusion would also
    become a predicate offense for the RICO statutes.
    DNA samples would be collected from hackers upon conviction, and
    retroactively from those currently in custody or under federal
    supervision. The samples would go into the federal database that
    currently catalogs murderers and kidnappers.
    Civil liberties groups have criticized the ATA for its dramatic
    expansion of surveillance authority, and other law enforcement powers.
    But Attorney General John Ashcroft urged swift adoption of the measure
    Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Ashcroft defended the
    proposal's definition of terrorism. "I don't believe that our
    definition of terrorism is so broad," said Ashcroft. "It is broad
    enough to include things like assaults on computers, and assaults
    designed to change the purpose of government."
    The Act is scheduled for mark-up by the committee Tuesday morning.
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