Compassion For Black Hat Hackers

Micah Scaffer has a great article over at Wired, advocating that we move beyond framing the issue (and law reform) of prosecution in the Aaron Swartz case to that of ‘good hackers’. Instead, he calls for compassion and critical thinking about the aggressive prosecutorial approach and lengthy sentences now given to all computer crimes.  He rightly notes that most hackers are young, and many do not come from the privileged backgrounds of ‘white hats’ like Swartz. His most cutting line comes in his appeal to online/offline consistency:

How do we explain to a young person who hacked their school’s website that they might be imprisoned for five years? Yet if they had physically destroyed the web server with a hammer, they would have faced no more than one year.


CF Roundup – Nano-Drones, Are Body Parts Property?, Anonymous Gets the Bankers, Cyber-9/11 and Tracking Sex Offenders

A roundup from the cyberspace:

  • Drones get even more Orwellian, with British Troops using ‘Black Hornet’  – a nano copter the size of the palm of your hand (Wired). 
  • A new article ponders where exactly body parts fall within classical property theory (EHLN, article with subscription).
  • Finally, a new study indicates that the use of geospatial technologies to track sex offenders could prove effective (ScienceDaily).

US News: UPnP Vulnerable to hackers, Anonymous attacks ‘Operation Last Resort’

Two oldish articles of note over at ZDnet:

  1. The US Department of Homeland Security has sent a serious warning in regard to networking devices such as scanners, printers, computers, and routers; which may be at risk due to vulnerabilities in the UPnP or “Universal Plug and Play” networking protocol used. The threat is considered so serious that the Department is recommending users disable UPnP, or risk possible breach by hackers.

  2. Feds struggle as Anonymous launch ‘Operation Last Resort’ campaign (video below) by attacking Federal government websites and threatening to release government information. The attack appears partly motivated by the death of Aaron Swartz and is driven by a call for law reform.


High Court of Ireland Rules Assisted Suicide Ban Constitutional, Human Rights Compatible

The High Court challenge in Ireland on the constitutionality and human rights compatibility of the country’s ban on assisted suicide has found in favour of the existing law, Key to the judgment (found here) was the finding that the ban did not amount to a disproportionate interference with personal autonomy. Also of interest were the comments that unlike with UK laws, the Irish Director of Prosecutions would not be able to change the law merely by changing guidelines in regard to prosecution – as this would result in the law not being enforced.

Chinese Hackers Access US Press Computer Systems

Seriously. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal  claim to have been targeted for months.

Cyber-Outlaws Bringing the LOLz

So, our favourite quasi-supervillans have certainly been keeping me amused this morning:


… and these were just what I stumbled upon this morning.

Demanding Answers For Aaron Swartz

Since the tragic death by suicide of information activist and technology pioneer Aaron Swartz, questions have been raised by commentators, legal experts and Swartz’s family as to why prosecutors would so virulently go after a suspect for what was essentially an abuse of copyright/licence offence, and why similar figures in the hacktivist community are also being  aggressively targeted.

The US Congress has now demanded  from the Department of Justice an answer to the question of why Swartz was so unfairly targeted. Wired has the details.