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The Expansionist
Saturday, February 28, 2009
 
Suppressing Internet Crime. I've got another priority for the Obama Administration: ending the massive crime spree going on every day, all over the world, via the Internet. People come into our homes and offices, and try to rob us and destroy our data, every day. The Internet is clogged with BILLIONS of scamspams that ISP's dutifully deliver to the email folders of hundreds of millions of people every day. I, for instance, get a minimum of 20 scamspams a day. Multiply that by only 100 million, because not everyone who has an email address gets scamspam, and you see that the Internet is seriously overburdened by thieves.
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Thousands of viruses, worms, and Trojans are also put out onto the Internet by insane individuals and perhaps also by hostile governments (Communist China most prominently, Russia perhaps second), and hack attacks by individuals and governments invade every computer they can get into, whereupon the invaders rummage around, steal info they find desirable, alter the content of websites, and even erase crucial information out of malice or military aggression. NOTHING is done about it, not any of it.
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The cost to society is massive. Entire industries are built around computer security, which would have to exist even if Internet crime weren't massive. But the cost could be borne by corporations and governments alone if the more casual attacks on individuals were ended. Hundreds of millions of computer users worldwide need to spend money that many can ill afford, to protect themselves from viruses and such. Why should anyone bear the entire cost of defense against crime? Protecting us from crime is a governmental responsibility. Indeed, it is one of the most basic of government purposes, one reason we consent to pay taxes at all. But our governments have disowned any responsibility for what happens online.
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That must change.
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In that many hackers and creators of viruses and phishing websites might be hard to catch, the base rule of crime and punishment comes into play: where the likelihood of punishment is high, the severity of punishment can be low; but where the likelihood of being caught is low, severity of punishment must be high.
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When people attack thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, the penalty must be extremely severe: physical punishment up to and including death, preferably by torture. Flogging is a good punishment, that achieves instant results. Imprisonment is a costly and useless punishment that achieves permanent change of behavior for the better relatively rarely. Recidivism is very high, in part because prisons, at least in the industrialized world, are much too pleasant. Indeed, for many people, life in prison is one long vacation, with no responsibilities — no rent to pay, no bills, no food to buy. And the people "inside" are the same people they would be associating with "outside".
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If a hacker were to be sentenced to five years in prison for each computer invaded, that could mount up to a very long term in a very short time. Indeed, even if we were to be so lenient as to sentence him/her (but usually "him") to only one year in prison for each computer invaded, those years could add up very quickly and very high. If the total exceeds 100 years, the sentence should automatically convert to death, since essentially no one can be expected to live for 100 years after being convicted of a crime. And why should society pay an average of perhaps $24,000 current dollars a year, year after year, to keep scum at leisure?
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In like manner, if a person defrauds people with one of these "Nigerian scams", a harsh penalty of five to ten years in prison for each person defrauded would very, very quickly produce an automatic death penalty.
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And as soon as the first Internet criminal is sentenced to death, we could expect to see a dramatic decrease in the kind of crime for which s/he was condemned to die. As soon as the execution is carried out, live via Internet (but not on YouTube or any other website where it could be replayed endlessly, lest it push some demented loser over the edge into violent crime), we could expect the number of all Internet crimes to plummet by perhaps 90%. The second execution, live via Internet, would then produce a 90% drop from what remained after the earlier execution, especially if a legend were shown under the picture of each execution in progress: "Notice to Internet criminals: We're coming for you too. Keep attacking society, and society will KILL you."
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P.S. Lest spammers who do not attempt to defraud, think they will get a pass, Congress and the UN should mandate severe penalties to bulk senders of unsolicited commercial email and the like as well. The costs of even nonfraudulent spam are high. A Wikipedia article says that an investigation by the California state legislature estimated that spam costs the U.S. $13 billion a year. That is a cost we should not have to bear, especially but not only in a time of economic downturn. Let businesses advertise in the periodicals and legitimate websites that are hurting for advertising revenues. And let their executives know that they PERSONALLY will be held PHYSICALLY accountable for abuses, even if such punishments, including imprisonment and flogging — a hugely effective punishment — should be (intended to be) less than lethal. Accidents happen. Some people get killed in prison. Some die of heart attacks during physical crises. Spammers should think about that.
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2d P.S. The people who display popup ads that evade popup blockers, and in the process of fiting and evading the popup blocker, freeze people's machines — in effect stealing control of people's machines and their time — should as well be punished severely. We have popup blockers because we don't want to see popups. Some website owners insist on attacking us anyway, and hijack our machine for two minutes each time they inflict popups on us against our will. They should be flogged.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,252 — for Israel.)



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