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Re: Pentester convicted..
From: Stuart Thomas <stuartpaulthomas () gmail com>
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 18:26:10 +0100

There are some interesting debates developing here! :-)

I would argue the main point in this case is - unauthorised access -

No matter how much good will is arguably present (think about the Daniel Cuthbert <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/06/tsunami_hacker_convicted/> case in terms of the same defense) you have gained unauthorised access. As ethical IT security experts, with all our knowledge, skill and esoteric talent, we do not have a right to gain unauthorised access. I hate to agree with Craig Wright (as I believe his comments on this list to be too acidic and un-supportive to the novice - although his frustration is completely understandable) however computer misuse legislation across the world carries a golden thread, you must have permission to access a computer system.

It is frustrating to observe the naivety and yet arguably the good will of these individuals who are sentenced to a jail terms (each case on it's own merits/demerits of course). I think generally the professional community is evolving through professionals bodies, and doing a good job. However I believe it is important to maintain the distinction between the professionals who follow a code of ethics and maintain good morals and practices, with those that are not and do not.

As ever the balance between liberty, freedom of speech, and suppression by the state/corporate entities is ever present as we walk through life.


Interesting times.

Stu



Ian Scott wrote:
So, one night, I'm taking a stroll along main street in my town. I stop for a rest, and happen to lean up against the front door of a store.

I notice the door gives a little bit - and out of curiousity and concern, push a little harder.

The door opens.

I immediately stop what I am doing, and notify the owners and the authorities that the premises are insecure.

By the absolute legal definition, I have indeed "broke and entered" the premises.

Where the hell is motive in all of this? I think that unless there was motive to do some harm, this conviction is utterly ridiculous.

That's my quickie opinion on the matter.

Best,

Ian Scott

On May 10, 2006 10:20 am, William Hancock wrote:
Hey there pen-testers, take this with a grain of salt, it just got me
excited.  I am really interested in everyones opinion on the matter or
corporate responsibility and ownership.

<RANT>
In an article posted to slashdot today
(http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/10/112259&from=rss) a man
has been convicted of hacking when he casually and helpfully reported a
security vulnerability to the owners of a web site, in this case The
University of Southern California.  It reads like it was some sort of
simple SQL injection and upon gleaning the information he reported it.

What are we to do as a community I ask?  We should we, the good guys,
who are paid for our knowledge and ability to exploit mistakes,
oversights, and weaknesses then professionally report them to aid in the
securing of information capital (or anyone who reports the flaw for that
matter) worry about prosecution.  It lends itself to a forcing the
technical community to sit on their laurels and wait for the people who
don't report issues to exploit them.  Further it sounds very clear that
had he not notified them, they would have never known.

A security pro notices a flaw, checks to make sure he is not on crack by
'flipping a bit', deems the threat viable and is likely to be exploited,
notifies the owners, then get arrested and charged with unauthorized
access.  We, as a or even The security community, should push
corporations, governments, and organized body's to take responsibility
and ownership of their problems.  If they publish a site that is flawed
or exposing information then they are authorizing the retrieval of that
information.  I'm not advocating that they laws should allow any jerk to
try and brute his or her way in to a public or private web site, but
come on.

If someone leaves their wallet in the park with no guard or protection,
I pick it up and bring it back to the owner, the owner didn't want me to
have it but I brought it back to him.  Why in the hell should I have to
go to jail for returning it to him, why should I/we be punished for
doing the right thing?

I acknowledge this to be a rant but there must but some way to insist
that when people make something available to the public that it is their
responsibility to safeguard it and appreciate not persecute someone who
let's them know (for free I might add) that a weakness exists.  This is
simple scapegoating, the University did something not advisable as a
good practice and instead of owning up to it they villafied a
professional pen-tester for offering valid advice.

</RANT>


Thanks,
Bill

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