Hackers Are the New Mob: White House Gets Serious on Cybercrime

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Potential teenage Matthew Brodericks, beware: In this era of LulzSec, DDoS attacks on BART and hacktivst group Anonymous telling NATO that the world doesn’t belong to them anymore, the White House has decided that it’s time to take hacking seriously, asking for tougher sentencing for those found guilty of cybercrime.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Associate Deputy Attorney General James Baker and Secret Service Deputy Special Agent in Charge Pablo Martinez explained that sentencing has failed to keep up with the growing seriousness of hacking, and that the administration is calling for the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to be folded into the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

(MORE: FBI Snatches Web Servers as Scotland Yard Arrests Alleged Hacker)

The key to understanding the proposed changes is the new presumption that modern hackers are not acting alone. Martinez told the Committee that “Secret Service investigations have shown that complex and sophisticated electronic crimes are rarely perpetrated by a lone individual,” adding that online criminals “organize in networks, often with defined roles for participants, in order to manage and perpetuate ongoing criminal enterprises dedicated to stealing commercial data and selling it for profit” (or, you know, just to cause chaos and show that they can hack into that place someone said they couldn’t, but whatever). It’s a narrative picked up by Baker, who went even further, saying that “[a]s computer technology has evolved, it has become a key tool of organized crime. Many of these criminal organizations are similarly tied to traditional Asian and Eastern European organized crime organizations.”

In addition to reclassifying hacking as an organized crime activity, the White House’s proposal seeks the creation of a national data breach standard, replacing whatever various state laws may be in place.

MORE: ‘Anonymous’ Levels Hacking Threat Against Federal Reserve

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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