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   they're young. As Paul Galbally said to the court at Mendax's

   sentencing, `All the accused are intelligent--but their intelligence

   outstretched their maturity'.  Chances are, most will be able to

   overcome or outgrow their addiction.

  

   In practice, most Australia's judges have been reasonably fair in

   their sentencing, certainly compared to judges overseas. None of the

   Australian hackers detailed in this work received a prison sentence.

   Part of this is due to happenstance, but part is also due to the sound

   judgments of people like Judge Lewis and Judge Kimm. It must be very

   tempting, sitting on the bench every day, to shoot from the hip

   interpreting new laws.

  

   As I sat in court listening to each judge, it quickly became clear

   that these judges had done their homework. With psychologist Tim

   Watson-Munro on the stand, Judge Lewis rapidly zeroed in on the

   subject of `free will'--as applied to addiction--regarding Prime

   Suspect. In Trax's case, Judge Kimm asked pointed questions which he

   could only have formulated after serious study of the extensive legal

   brief. Their well-informed judgments suggested a deeper understanding

   both of hacking as a crime, and of the intent of the largely untested

   computer crime legislation.

  

   However, a great deal of time and money has been wasted in the pursuit

   of look-see hackers, largely because this sort of hacking is treated

   as a major crime. Consider the following absurd situation created by

   Australia's federal computer criminal legislation.

  

   A spy breaks into a computer at the Liberal Party's headquarters and

   reads the party's top-secret election strategy, which he may want to

   pass on to the Labor Party. He doesn't insert or delete any data in

   the process, or view any commercial information. The penalty under

   this legislation? A maximum of six months in prison.

  

   That same spy decides he wants to get rich quick. Using the local

   telephone system, he hacks into a bank's computer with the intention

   of defrauding the financial institution. He doesn't view any

   commercial or personal information, or delete or insert any files. Yet

   the information he reviews--about the layout of a bank building, or

   how to set off its fire alarm or sprinkler system--proves vital in his

   plan to defraud the bank. His penalty: a maximum of two years prison.

  

   Our spy now moves onto bigger and better things. He penetrates a

   Department of Defence computer with the intention of obtaining

   information about Australia's military strategies and passing it on to

   the Malaysians. Again, he doesn't delete or insert any data--he just

   reads every sensitive planning document he can find. Under the federal

   anti-hacking laws, the maximum penalty he would receive would also be

   two years prison.

  

   Meanwhile, a look-see hacker breaks into a university computer without

   doing any damage. He doesn't delete any files. He FTPs a public-domain

   file from another system and quietly tucks it away in a hidden, unused

   corner of the university machine. Maybe he writes a message to someone

   else on-line. If caught, the law, as interpreted by the AFP and the

   DPP, says he faces up to ten years in prison. The reason? He has

   inserted or deleted data.

  

   Although the spy hacker might also face other charges--such as

   treason--this exercise illustrates some of the problems with the