Turkish courts get it right on punishing hackers

American courts are so weak about prosecuting hackers. Aaron Swartz’s defenders had a freak-out when he was at risk of getting up to 50 years, after turning down a 6 month plea, because he willfully disrupted a major university’s access to important, expensive data. But when online attackers hurt many people all at once, the law is wrong when if doesn’t take into account each separate victimization.

That’s why I’m glad to see Turkey, of all countries, is doing the right thing.

Photo by Pierre (Rennes) on flickr
Photo by Pierre (Rennes) on flickr

A team of criminals conspired to steal from online banking customers, and managed to attack 54 people. Onur Kopçak was part of the ring, and has been sentenced to 334 years in prison for the crimes. That sounds like a lot, but it turns out it’s 6 years, 10 weeks per victim.

Critics say the crime’s duration is ‘astronomical’, but when you target an astronomical number of people, why shouldn’t your time go up? Are we saying that if you steal from enough people, we should let the individuals blur together into a indistinguishable mass, denying them individuality and rights? Anarchists want mass theft to be treated like a parking ticket, but under the rule of law, we can’t protect property rights that way.

States like California passed “Use a gun, go to jail” laws that stiffened criminal penalties when a gun was used. Apparently these folks want to add to that “Use a computer, get a slap on the wrist.” America needs to take Turkey’s lead on this, and prosecute mass crime appropriately.