BLOGGERS NOTE, 10/9/2008: This is an edited blog. I have removed some descriptive verbiage.
Today, a federal grand jury formally indicted one David Kernell, age 20, a student at the University of Tennessee, in the deliberate hacking of the Yahoo email accounts belonging to Alaska Governor Sarah Pailn, the GOP nominee for vice-president of the United States.
Good work, grand jury. Now let the federal prosecutors refuse a deal, convict him on all counts and incarcerate him for the full length of his sentence. Fine him to the $250,000 maximum. And before anyone gives me any nonsense like Anonymous did to the author of the article, I would say the exact same things had he hacked Obama's Blackberry or Biden's home PC.
When I read about the sentencing of persons convicted of Internet crimes such as identity theft or hacking, I feel the perp got off too lightly in many cases. And I am amazed when people in our profession feel differently. Information security is something we can barely hold onto with our fingernails on a good day. When arrogant perps -- I am sorry, alleged arrogant perps -- such as Mr. Kernell come along, his actions define criminality. He allegedly deliberately stole Ms. Palin's identity in an effort to dig through emails looking for dirt. What he apparently found was a recipe for moose stew -- and a surefire recipe for BIG trouble, plus a lot of prison friendships to look forward to.
So don't give me any of that claptrap about "Oh, don't be so harsh, the poor boy didn't know that what he was doing was so wrong. Nobody got hurt, so why hate?" Moosecrap. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing. And he was so arrogant about his exploits he posted his criminal success everywhere he could, for all to see.
Shall I also mention the conspicuously-placed last line of the Computerworld article? He is the son of a longtime Democrat state representative. Which immediately escalates this into the realm of a campaign dirty trick, sanctioned or unsanctioned.
Bottom line is this: People such as Mr. Kernell need to be made examples of, in order for cyberspace to be a safer place. Let others learn and heed. Hacking someone's email account is not just unethical, it is CRIMINAL. ILLEGAL. And I also think we all should demand more security from Webmail providers such as Yahoo. Perhaps tougher challenge-response questions like "when was the last time you field dressed a moose?" would be good, instead of stuff you can pick up from Wikipedia.
But for hapless little perp David Kernell, his challenge response should be "How many years were you incarcerated for the federal offense of hacking?"