Apr 20 2000

You must be at least this tall to stand trial for cyber-crimes

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Say what?!? FBI assistant legal attaché Bill Lynn speculated the U.S. won’t indict Mafiaboy for February’s DDoS attacks. At least not at this time, anyway.

Let’s assume Mafiaboy’s guilt for a moment. (Why not? The feds do.) I’ve picked my nose enough to know when I’ve got a snot on my hands. I say we roll Mafia­boy up into a little ball and flick him to the carpet.

He probably won’t face a gavel, though. “You must be at least this tall to go on trial for U.S. cybercrimes.”

Government fearmongers claim those attacks cost U.S. firms “millions of dollars” in lost revenue and damaged the very future of e-commerce. The FBI alone wants billions of tax dollars and sweeping new powers so NIPC’s cybercops can protect everything in
America (and I do mean everything!) from “Internet-borne terrorism.”

Yet the U.S. yawns when faced with a world-renowned suspect who actually forced Mudge to make an appearance at the White House. “Wow.”

Yes yes yes, I know attorney general Janet Reno said “[we must] let young people know that they are not going to be able to get away with something like this scot-free.” News flash: she doesn’t run the cyber-show at FBI — Michael Vatis does. He who controls NIPC ultimately controls the Justice Department’s Internet agenda. I don’t make this claim lightly, and I’ll blame Vatis if Mafiaboy avoids a felony indictment.

The U.S. government’s “extraordinary fear of the Internet” has less to do with budgets than you might think. Key players appear far more interested in political power-grabs and TV exposure. The case against David “complete idiot” Smith generated a favorable media circus, so he’ll do hard time. Mafiaboy, by contrast, lives in Canada and probably only just got his driver’s permit. His case could stir up the wrong media exposure for Vatis & federal prosecutors, so he’ll probably never stand before a U.S. judge.

Let’s assume Mafiaboy’s guilt for a moment. (Why not? The feds do.) I’ve picked my nose enough to know when I’ve got a snot on my hands. I say we roll Mafiaboy up into a little ball and flick him to the carpet. Yep, let’s railroad the little snot for heinous crimes against cybermanity. Hang him from a directory tree with a CAT5 cable as an example to others. Whoever holds the gavel over him should deliver the following minimum punishments:

  1. Juvenile detention in a U.S. facility until he turns 21, then kick his Canadan butt back to Canadia.
  2. Ban him from setting foot on U.S. soil from then on. For life.
  3. Ban him from working on U.S. government contracts. For life.
  4. Fine him. $2 million will suffice. U.S. dollars, of course. (Let him IPO his way out of debt like everyone else.)

I doubt he’ll face a gavel, though, because “you must be at least this tall to go on trial for U.S. cybercrimes.” Reno can blab all she wants, but NIPC does the actual fishing for suspects. You watch: they’ll throw the little snot back into Lake Ontario. U.S. attorney Robert Cleary said it best: “[It will have] a significant deterrent impact… I think this will have the effect we want.”

Waitaminit, I quoted Cleary out of context. He said those words after David “complete idiot” Smith‘s devastating conviction. What message will the U.S. send to über-hackers & cyber-terrorists if they don’t railroad Mafiaboy?

Mafia­boy’s arrest clouds a bigger problem: NIPC. How many other FBI offices have their own “.gov” domain? How many other FBI offices market them­selves with an “in the news” promo page?

Anyway, Mafiaboy’s arrest clouds a bigger problem: NIPC. Take the finger out of your nose and tell me how many other FBI offices have their own “.gov” domain. Then tell me how many other FBI offices market themselves with an “in the news” promo page.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: “FBI NIPC just wants to play ‘tag’ with virus writers for publicity reasons.” Consider the following:

  • If you live in the U.S. and write 105 lines of Word macro code which — get this — generates a couple of million emails, then NIPC will help put you behind bars for up to ten years.
  • If you live in the U.S. and regularly hijack hundreds of U.S. systems which — get this — generate a couple of million emails for your dubious business venture, then NIPC will ask HotMail to terminate each of your freemail accounts.
  • If you live in Taiwan and unleash a Chernobyl virus which — get this — wipes out data on “thousands” of U.S. government, military, corporate, academic, and personal PCs to the tune of “millions of dollars” in damages, then NIPC won’t even bother to pursue an indictment against you.
  • If you live in Canada and hijack hundreds of U.S. systems which — get this — knock out U.S. e-commerce firms to the tune of “millions of dollars” in damages, then prosecutors might not even bother to pursue an indictment against you.

Hmmm, I think you better wash up before dinner. Your finger is covered with Mafiaboy.


Mafiaboy’s arrest presents a Catch-22 situation for U.S. prosecutors. The extradition alone will create a legal mess, and a trial-gone-bad could drive a stake into Vatis’ political aspirations. On the other hand, ignoring the kid would give critics like me a powerful anecdote in the fight against security hysteria.

Still, I can see at least three ways out of this Catch-22. (Take notes, Vatis.)

  1. Prosecutors can say Mafiaboy covered his tracks just well enough to avoid conviction. “A trial would only waste money which NIPC needs to defend critical infrastructures from future cyber-attacks.”
  2. Prosecutors can make a token effort to extradite Mafiaboy, then blame Canada for shielding him under juvenile laws. “NIPC’s investigative prowess will go to waste unless and until he sets foot on U.S. soil.”
  3. Prosecutors might offer to label Mafiaboy a “genius hacker” if he agrees to take 40 lashes with a wet noodle.

Here comes my prediction, folks. I predict U.S. prosecutors will offer the brat Door #3. If Mafiaboy doesn’t have snot for brains, he’ll take the wet-noodle flogging and submit his rapsheetrésumé to eToys.com’s CIO. (Rumor says he offers a signing bonus to genius hackers.)

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