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   current computer crime legislation.

  

   The letter of the law says that our look-see hacker might face a

   prison term five times greater than the bank fraud criminal or the

   military spy, and twenty times greater than the anti-Liberal Party

   subversive, if he inserts or deletes any data. The law, as interpreted

   by the AFP, says that the look-see hacking described above should have

   the same maximum ten-year prison penalty as judicial corruption. It's

   a weird mental image--the corrupt judge and the look-see hacker

   sharing a prison cell.

  

   Although the law-makers may not have fully understood the

   technological aspects of hacking when they introduced the computer

   crimes legislation, their intent seems clear. They were trying to

   differentiate between a malicious hacker and a look-see hacker, but

   they could have worded it better.

  

   As it's worded, the legislation puts malicious, destructive hacking on

   a par with look-see hacking by saying that anyone who destroys,

   erases, alters or inserts data via a carrier faces a prison term,

   regardless of the person's intent. There is no gradation in the law

   between mere deletion of data and `aggravated deletion'--the maximum

   penalty is ten years for both. The AFP has taken advantage of this

   lack of distinction, and the result has been a steady stream of

   look-see hackers being charged with the most serious computer crime

   offences.

  

   Parliament makes the laws. Government institutions such as the AFP,

   the DPP and the courts interpret and apply those laws. The AFP and to

   some extent the DPP have applied the strict letter of the law

   correctly in most of the hacking cases described in this book. They

   have, however, missed the intention of the law. Change the law and

   they may behave differently. Make look-see hacking a minor offence and

   the institutions will stop going after the soft targets and hopefully

   spend more time on the real criminals.

  

   I have seen some of these hackers up close, studied them for two years

   and learned a bit about what makes them tick. In many ways, they are

   quintessentially Australian, always questioning authority and

   rebelling against `the establishment'. They're smart--in some cases

   very smart. A few might even be classified as technical geniuses.

   They're mischievous, but also very enterprising. They're rebels,

   public nuisances and dreamers.

  

   Most of all, they know how to think outside the box.

  

   This is not a flaw. Often, it is a very valuable trait--and one which

   pushes society forward into new frontiers. The question shouldn't be

   whether we want to crush it but how we should steer it in a different

   direction.

 

   If you would like to comment on this book, please write to

   feedback@underground-book.com. All comments are passed onto

   Dreyfus & Assange.