Security experts: Give 'Mafiaboy' a break

If found guilty, should the Canadian teen arrested for the Denial-of-Service attacks serve a long jail term? No, say security specialists

Security professionals and hackers that break into networks for a living urged compassion in the case of 'Mafiaboy,' the 15-year-old Internet vandal accused of bringing down during February's denial-of-service attacks. "I think our overreaction to this is a bit much," said Craig Ozancin, senior security analyst with network security firm Axent Technologies and a speaker at NetTrends 2000 in Salt Lake City.

Ozancin, who breaks into clients' networks to find security flaws, believes kids like Mafiaboy should -- to some extent -- get a break.

Kelly White, Internet security specialist with e-commerce system creator Context Integration, agreed and added that throwing such kids in with traditional "bad apples" is not a good idea.

"The kids that are (hacking) into systems are brilliant," White said. "We need these kids to be productive citizens, not criminals."

"Brilliant" wasn't the way that some law-enforcement officials described Mafiaboy.

What companies should fear, however, is a similar attack directed with more skill, Ozancin said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "We will soon see these attacks in the hands of guys with agendas -- the Unabomber of the Internet, the disgruntled employee."

Another security professional likened the recent harsh penalties for hackers to a lynch mob's pursuit of horse thieves.

"I think these people should be prosecuted," said Bruce Schneier, president of security service provider Counterpane Internet Security, "but I worry about overreaction. What they did is akin to cow tipping."

Should he be given a break or taught a lesson? Go to the online TalkBack area...