Computer Crime Research Center


Punishment fails to fit the cybercrime

Date: August 19, 2004
Source: ZDNet UK
By: Declan McCullagh

Why does creating a virus carry lighter penalties than marijuana offences?

Jeffrey Lee Parson pleaded guilty last week to unleashing part of the MSBlast worm attack that wreaked havoc on the Internet a year ago. He got off easy.

Federal prosecutors predictably touted Parson's guilty plea as an example for other would-be vandals. John McKay, the US Attorney for Seattle, proclaimed: "The damage to individual computer users is very real, and the penalties are also very real."

Not really. McKay neglected to mention that Parson's all-expense-paid visit to Club Fed will be surprisingly brief. Prosecutors say that the deal they cut means that Parson, who is 19 years old, will be sentenced to between 18 and 37 months.

That's mild punishment for someone who admitted to inserting nasty features into the original version of MSBlast to make it more noxious. By releasing his "MSBlast.B" variant that took advantage of a bug in Microsoft Windows, Parson intentionally harmed tens of thousands of people for his own amusement.

Compare Parson's sentence with the far stiffer penalties that the government metes out to marijuana "criminals," who harm nobody and cause no property damage. For the 2001 fiscal year, the average sentence for a marijuana offence was 38 months in prison, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Parson could be serving more time if he had simply stolen a neighbour's car on a whim. The average federal sentence for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 28 months, the US Justice Department reports. Aggravated assault is punished with an average sentence of 33 months.

If prosecutors took real computer crimes seriously, might that deter future worm attacks? Consider that federal law says the maximum penalty for the offences listed in Parson's arrest warrant is at least 30 years.

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2007-05-31 22:08:42 - Virus's Are Stupid And What Are... Virus
2006-01-13 06:10:08 - thankx for the info!!!!!!!!!! Sameer
2005-09-02 02:23:28 - Very nice blog. Mira
2005-05-02 18:25:31 - viruses are bad to unleash why would... chris
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