January 2nd, 2002 04:01 PM
Is Distributed Computing a Crime?
A computer network administrator faces multiple felony charges and years in a Georgia prison for allegedly installing Distributed.net clients without permission. Prosecutors say its justice, others aren't so sure
By Ann Harrison
Dec 20 2001 12:44AM PT
A college computer technician who offered his school's unused computer processing power for an encryption research project will be tried next month in Georgia for computer theft and trespassing charges that carry a potential total of 120 years in jail.
The closely-watched case if one of the first in which state prosecutors have lodged felony charges for allegedly downloading third-party software without permission.
David McOwen was working as a PC specialist at the state-run DeKalb Technical Institute in 1998, when he learned about a project by the non-profit organization distributed.net that allowed computer users to donate their unused processing power to test the RC5 encryption algorithm. Noticing that many of the machines he maintained on the seven DeKalb campuses sat idle for long periods, McOwen installed distributed.net clients at several of those locations while performing a Y2K upgrade on the machines in 1999.
According to McOwen, during the Christmas holidays in 1999 school administrators noticed that unused machines were sending and receiving the distributed.net data -- about the equivalent of one email a day. The school sent McOwen a letter of suspension in January of 2000, without specifying a grievance, and McOwen resigned shortly afterwards, believing that he had put the incident behind him.
Instead, in June of 2001 McOwen was contacted by an investigator from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who informed him that he was the subject of an 18-month computer crime investigation. In October, prosecutors from the Georgia state attorney general's office charged McOwen with eight violations of Georgia's tough computer crime law: one count of computer theft, and seven counts of computer trespass -- one for each of the school offices where McOwen downloaded the distributed.net client.
Read more at the site above...
Anyways, I'd like to know what you guys think. Given that there's a reward involved, do you think he committed a crime, and why?
The Nelson-Shepherd cutoff: The point at which you realise someone is an idiot while trying to help them.
\"Well as far as the spelling, I speak fluently both your native languages. Do you even can try spell mine ?\" -- Failed Insult
Is your whole family retarded, or did they just catch it from you?
January 2nd, 2002 04:24 PM
I think 120 years in prison might be a little too long for this type of incident. I'm not completely sure if this is even a good enough reason for loosing his job.
I don't know how the program behaves, but I guess there's some chance it might contain a security hole, and therefore could be a threat to the network. And that could be a reason for fireing someone.
I've heard people have gotten fired for using peer-to-peer software like Morpheus, because of possible security threats.
January 2nd, 2002 04:24 PM
Do you see how rediculous computer laws are getting? This is probably the guys first offence. He gets a harsher sentence than ALOT of other more serious criminals get. If the gov. would put as much forensics and effort into other crime as they do in computer crimes then we would have alot lower crime rate. IMO, it's bullsh*t..
"This is a hacking statute," says McOwen, "but obviously this is not hacking."
If you offered a reward to every witness of a crime scene, there would be alot of $$$ wasted for information that should be freely given with out charge.
A $1,000 prize goes to the individual contributor who recovers the RC5 encryption key.
Thats correct. CHSH tell him what he's won! Nothing. Why not? 'Cause the prosecutors don't need to know anything about computer science. All they do is suck the $$$ out of your wallet.. I hate lawyers..
"I think the prosecutor's office needs some lessons in computer science," says Farber. "If you want to make a point, there are much better examples than this guy."
The case is set for trial on January 28th.
January 2nd, 2002 05:15 PM
This is madness, ok if the boss is mad about it just yell at the employee. But dragging him to court?
January 2nd, 2002 06:25 PM
This is just another step to 1984 guys. But it is really insane that they can drag you to court for cooperating with distributed.net. Firing him, well, maybe. But he faces up to 120 years. That's *****in crazy man.
I say long live distributed computing!
.. and a short one to all the bureaucrats that are buzy making the USA unliveable.
January 2nd, 2002 06:48 PM
The indictment also calls for restitution equal to the amount of money paid to state workers to uninstall the programs from 500 PCs.
Come on!, use ghost and it will be done in 20 minutes.
If we let them do this to McOwen, they are gonna do worse things to each and everyone of us. Computer law is getting more than stupid!!!
Todo lo que no me mata me hace mas fuerte...
January 2nd, 2002 07:42 PM
I think that up to 120 years in prison is nuts for a case like this.
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January 2nd, 2002 07:48 PM
So do something about it. You elect the dumb assh#$%s that put these laws in. Vote them out. Run yourself.
Quit whining about 1984 It'll never happen, the reason for this is simple. Most people would freely give up their "rights" for the new SEEN ON TV gimmick. You should read "amusing ourselves to death". By Neil Postman Good book. NOW GO READ.
P.S. They should fire him, not jail him. I think they'll have a hard time proving malicious intent. Good luck
Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.
- Samuel Johnson
January 3rd, 2002 02:17 AM
Democracy is useless when you are outnumbered
I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.
January 3rd, 2002 02:34 AM
I have seen dumb stuff before but this ices the cake!
Most DA's and Cops should stay out of the computer
law enforcement end, all they do is cost poor Joes who
are trying to scratch out a living in this industry
many thousands of dollars in legal fees because
of no understanding of computers.
Maybe he was wrong but 120 years, Heck OJ
got away with murder if do not beleve the defense
side of things. I guess the more money in lawers
you spend the more Justice.
I system admin for a company who's boss has that on
his computer... And this company is a multi-million dollar
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