Cyber Crime and Punishment

Posted by Sarah Becker Fri, 19 Jul 2013 09:54:00 GMT

As hackers develop more advanced methods to exploit systems and information, there are still no clear laws that determine what should be considered theft when accessing information online. Many hackers maintain the philosophy that online information should be free for all to access, regardless of authentication methods.

Below are two controversial examples of hackers who have been convicted for exploiting online information, but claim that online information should be available to all:


The AT&T Hacker


In 2011, Hacker Andrew Auernheimer, also known as “Weev,” exploited a security hole in AT&T’s servers in order to obtain the e-mail addresses of over 100,000 iPad users. 

Auernheimer, 27, was convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial law that was enacted to deter intrusions into the North American Aerospace Defense Command but was expanded over time to criminalize terms of use violations. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Auerheimer has recently appealed his conviction with the claim that his actions did not violate theft because as a result of AT&T's lax security, the information was freely available on the Internet.


The JSTOR Hacker


Aaron Swartz, 26, unleashed a new cyber-crime debate for downloading 4.8 million articles from JSTOR, a proprietary database of academic journals. In his online manifesto, Swartz stated that his philosophy was that “information wants to be free” and by gaining access to JSTOR’s articles in order to release to users at no charge, he felt that he was liberating information that was imprisoned.

As he was awaiting trial, Swartz committed suicide. Before his death, he faced 35 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines. 

As the discussion whether these hackers are geniuses or criminals continues, we’d like to hear thoughts from our readers. How can more well-defined laws be made in order to protect online information? Please share in the comments below.

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