y'know, I'm a terrorist, too
So, when this first came up, I was curious. I looked for the published files about the case.
It seems that, amongst other things, McKinnon is being charged because (despite how easy it was) he gained access to information that the US Military had taken action to secure from the public.
So how am I a terrorist?
Well, the document I was reading included the IP addresses of some computers that McKinnon accessed. But the addresses had been blocked out with a black box - obviously information they intended to secure. I wondered how secure it really was. I copied the text (ctrl+a to select it all, ctrl+c to copy it) - opened nopepad, and pasted the text (ctrl+v)
There were the IP addresses, clear as day. Oops. Looks like I bypassed some of their (admittedly feeble) security. Looks like I am guilty of terrorism, too.
Now, I have an inkling of how McKinnon got in. I now have a list of IP addresses that were previously vulnerable. Makes me want to test them, to see if either I'm right about my guesses, and whether anyone has bothered to actually secure the computers. I wouldn't have done anything bad (maybe poked around just from curiosity then left.)
I never tested this, since I'm assuming the hole would have been plugged (if it's what I'm thinking, it'd be plugged pretty easily)
Anyway... yeah... hopefully this story goes some way to showing that we can't compare apples and oranges. A lack of security on the internet *can* be seen as an invitation.
I could have been copying/pasting that information for legitimate reasons and expecting the censored information to be missing. Or I could have been doing exactly what I did, and knowingly searched for a way around their security - but when security is so lax...
... ugh. It's like putting a "do not steal" sign up on a shopfront then hoping.
Except that's not really the right metaphor. Unless something was damaged... it's like putting a "do not peek" sign on a mostly-closed door. Then filing charges of industrial espionage against someone walking past, who looks through the door.
Leaving a door unlocked does not give anyone the legal or moral right to steal your things. It doesn't even give them the legal or moral right to walk through the door. But in a building where people *do* have the right to walk around (say, a university) - leaving a door unlocked still doesn't give people the legal right to walk in, but it hardly seems like an extreme case if they do. There are many students who'll walk into an unlocked room, sit down quietly, and do their study. Should we sue them for trespass?
For me? I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want to damage anything. I don't want to steal anything. I *do* have a sense of curiosity, and I love understanding how things work. I love to read unusual spam mails and try to figure out what the con is. I love to calculate how best to count cards in a game of blackjack (but have never considered doing so in a casino where I can profit from cheating). And I love making computers do things they weren't intended to. It's a game. I stay on the legal side (working in IT, I have many systems that I'm the administrator of, so I can hunt out these weaknesses as a productive way of improving our systems)
Now, don't get me wrong. I am entirely against criminals. I am entirely against people who use computers to "bully" others. I truly, passionately HATE all the trojans and email scams that play on the users ignorance. But any large company? They should have at least one competent IT person who can secure their system. If they don't? They should hire someone to look it over and give advice. Because, although an unlocked door isn't an excuse for thieves to take things from your house, we don't see companies that leave their warehouses unlocked all night.
Let's switch this around, and remove computers and "the internet" from the discussion (since people overreact about any crime involving computers). Imagine if the US left their weapon stores locked (but only with a locker padlock, which can be picked using a paperclip) and McKinnon walked in looking for alien technology. And saw all their missiles, torpedoes, nuclear bombs, and who knows what else?
Yeah, he'd be breaking the law, but who would we be outraged at?
And if they said it cost $700,000 to fix his damage (if he didn't take anything. They just spent that much investigating what happened, putting in new locks, etc.) - would we be more or less skeptical of their case?
Dead vulture for a culture that is crushing our sense of exploration and wonder.