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Thread: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

  1. #1
    JimH
    Guest

    Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    Alright guys, would like to hear your comments on this one.

    Quote:
    A college computer technician who offered his school's unused computer processing power for an encryption research project will be tried next month in Georgia for computer theft and trespassing charges that carry a potential total of 120 years in jail.

    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/300

    While I think he violated school policy installing these programs, I really can't see the reason for prosecuting him to this extent.

    Comments?

    Jim H

  2. #2
    x0xCRIZx0x
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    The fact is that the laws are too broad to apply to specific situations. Too many gray areas exist when it comes to situations like these.

    One thing though, I think these charges are a load of sh*t. You could see prosecutors are just trying to nail him with something big right from the beginning:

    "At an early stage in the proceedings, prosecutors claimed that McOwen had cost the state of Georgia $415,000 in bandwidth charges, based on a calculation that the distributed.net clients consumed precisely 59 cents worth of bandwidth per second. The state has since backed away from the $415,000 figure. "

    WTF?! Where is this calculation coming from? I wonder what they were smoking when they came up with this. Granted that the bandwidth and processing power wasn't even being used by the computers. If the software was hogging resources that would otherwise be used at the time, then I understand.

    He got fired from his job. IMO, that should have been enough. Prosecuting him on other charges is not only unreasonable, it shows the lack of knowledge put into these laws.

  3. #3
    Spot
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    He got fired from his job. IMO, that should have been enough. Prosecuting him on other charges is not only unreasonable, it shows the lack of knowledge put into these laws.
    Actually he resigned after being suspended with no reason given, But that's beside the point.
    This legislation is going to *have* to be tossed out because of situatiuons like this. It's making civil cases into criminal cases.
    Sue the guy? Sure.
    Put him in jail? Fuck no.

  4. #4
    JimH
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    Well, it looks like the state of Georgia has finally come to it's senses and has offered a plea bargain.

    Quote:
    Under the terms of the deal offered by the Georgia attorney general's office, McOwen will be required to make restitution of $2,100 to cover the cost of removing the clients, and perform 80 hours of community service unrelated to computers or technology. He also receives one year of probation for each criminal count, which will run concurrently. McOwen will have no felony or misdemeanor record under Georgia's First Offender Act.

    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/311

    Jim H

  5. #5
    nfallon
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    I'll probably get flammed for this but, as a network administrator the guy shouldn't have been putting anything on the systems that didn't belong there. He left the door open for others to get into the college system and perhaps have the ability to alter school records. I think the concern would be more of a security issue rather than a hacking issue. If they told him to stop using the applications and to remove them he shoudl have done what they asked. In his job description as a network administrator he would be required to make the network secure from outside sources. He did not. He screwed up and is paying the price for it.

    The fees could actually be pretty high for what he was doing not just with bandwith but with electrical consumption. If he left systems on that would not ordinarily be left on he would be using electricity that the school would not normally use. As far as bandwidth chages. There are ISPs that charge bandwidth charges if you go over an alotted amount monthly.

    If I were paying for a T3 or T1 line and someone else was using my line I think I would be a little pissed. Let them get there own line.

    If the guy is guilty of anything it would be larceny for hijacking the line. Have him pay the cost of the line for the months that he was allowing others to access it.

    Also, if he let one person use the systems and the line I'm sure all of his buddies were doing the same thing.

    Neil

  6. #6
    JimH
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    I agree with you that he did something he should not have. I just don't agree with the extent to which he is being prosecutors.

    The real issue is did he have permission? Was he aware that there was a policy against it? Where is the policy?

    Quote:
    Prosecutors insisted that McOwen had violated a written agreement not to download third party software without authorization, but never produced the written policy.

    Hmmm. Alot of this case looks like it comes down to his word against ? who? His supervisors?

    Did his supervisors know what he was doing and are just trying to cover their b****? Just too many unanswered questions for me to see him prosecuted to this level.

    Jim H

  7. #7
    nfallon
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    Hi Jim,

    He really doesn't have break a written agreement. The following link is to the law governing computer fraud.

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1030.html

    Section A.6. would put him in the hot seat.

    Neil

  8. #8
    JimH
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    If there isn't a written policy how does he know if he exceeds what he is allowed to do?

    (6)

    knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as defined in section 1029) in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization, if -

    (A)

    such trafficking affects interstate or foreign commerce; or


    I don't see any that applies to this case.

    Jim H

  9. #9
    nfallon
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    Hi Jim,

    Every college has a policy in place. I have done a search for that particular place but cannot get onto their web site. I have done a search on a number of different colleges and found that there was in place an agreement for the students that they will not allow certain materials or people that are not students onto the college network. The agreements seem pretty standard.

    The section that you quoted:

    knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as defined in section 1029) in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization

    He was told by his supervisors to stop the practice but continued to give out passwords to allow some to access the network. That is exactly what the section that you quoted is stating.

    Neil

  10. #10
    JimH
    Guest

    Re: Is Distributed Computing A Crime?

    He was told by his supervisors to stop the practice but continued to give out passwords to allow some to access the network. That is exactly what the section that you quoted is stating.
    He wasn't a student he a network administrator. Where did you see that he was accused of giving out passwords? The opnly thing I have seen him accused of is installing Distributed.net clients without permission.

    Quote:
    ....state prosecutors have lodged felony charges for allegedly downloading third-party software without permission.

    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/300

    I don't see any references to him giving out network passwords.

    Jim H

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