Hackers; where is the justice?

It seems like every week we hear of a new news story where a company has been hacked, broken the Data Protection Act and/or fined. Although in these hacking stories the data of innocent people is often compromised, it seems like the blame is often being put upon the companies, when in fact it should be the hackers who are taking the blame.

After a data breach occurs, how much investigation goes into finding the hacker that committed the crime? Little? Or none? It is easier to blame the company where the attack occurred, issue a fine, and pronounce them incompetent of looking after your data. But is this really the case? Lee Howell, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, stated that “it’s impossible to be completely secure online”. So if this is true, then why should the victims (companies) be put to blame? Yes, I agree that companies who manage sensitive data should take the necessary precautions to do everything they can to protect that data, but where does the justice lie for them if they did not commit the real crime?

Take it like this; if you were to lock your house up at night (doors, windows etc.) before you went to bed, and you were burgled during the night, should it then be you who faces prosecution for not protecting your house properly, or should the person who broke into your house be prosecuted?

Lee Howell talks about social norms in terms of cyber crime, concluding that “we do not yet fully understand how social norms are shaped in the virtual world. Why is it that many people who would be ashamed to admit stealing a DVD from a shop will happily discuss illegally downloading a movie?” This can be referenced to the point above about the current justice system for hackers and hacked companies.

It is important to note that one of the main reasons cyber criminals don’t get caught is because of the anonymity of it all. Hackers are often more technologically advanced than the people tracking them down, which can mean that most investigations come to a halt before they’ve even begun. You can find hacking software easily on the web, meaning that anyone can try their hand at it, which has thus been a major cause in the proliferation of hacking. Another main reason why hackers fail to get caught is the difficulty in cross-border policing. If you notice a computer attack that came from country X, tracking down that cyber criminal would be near-on impossible due to the different laws and regulations held between two different countries. Adam Segal from The Diplomat says, “It’s hard to deter if you can’t punish, and you can’t punish without knowing who is behind an attack.” With so much difficulty in tracking down hackers, they often get away with the crime, but does their anonymity give them the right to this?

More attention should be put on the hackers themselves (tracking them down and prosecuting them), rather than the companies who suffer data breaches because of them. A unified approach and shift in focus will lead to a more realistic deterrent for cyber criminals, hoping to break the cyber gang culture that is appearing across the web.

Food for thought anyway.