86% believe jailed British hackers should have received harsher sentence, Sophos reports

October 12, 2005 Sophos Press Release

A web poll of more than 330 business PC users, conducted by Sophos, has revealed that 86% believe that the British virus writers, who were jailed last Friday, should have been dealt a harsher sentence by the authorities.

Members of the Thr34t-Krew cyber crime gang, Andrew Harvey and Jordan Bradley were sentenced to six months and three months in jail respectively for causing unauthorised modification of computers with intent. Sophos believes that these results reflect businesses' increasing intolerance to those who commit computer crimes.

Only 3% of respondents believed that the sentence given by Newcastle Crown Court was too harsh. 11% deemed the punishment for creating the TKBot-A Trojan horse, which was designed to take control of internet-connected computers belonging to third parties, as fair.

Survey results

Is the Thr34t-Krew malware gang's jail sentence...

not harsh enough?
86%
about right?
11%
too harsh?
3%


"The fact that such a high percentage of respondents in our web poll think these hackers should have received a more severe punishment shows that businesses are sick to the back teeth of those who engage in computer crime," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "People are realising that malware authors are not geniuses engaged in some harmless mischief, but causing serious disruption to business systems, and should be dealt with seriously."

Bradley, 22, and Harvey, 24, who pleaded guilty to the charges against them, conspired together, and with others, to break into innocent users computers and then send commands to the infected machines.

"The fact that these young men operated through the virtual environment doesn't make this illegal intrusion less real or less potentially damaging," continued Cluley. "They were fully aware of their destructive actions and a harsher sentence would have sent a stronger message to all who write computer viruses, worms and Trojans."

Sophos continues to recommend that computer users ensure their anti-virus software is up-to-date, and that companies protect themselves from similar threats to those posed by the Thr34t-Krew, with a consolidated solution which can defend them from the threats of viruses, spyware and spam.

Many respondents also sent comments to Sophos in reaction to the survey. Here is a small selection:

"The malicious actions of hackers, spammers and virus spreaders is hurting the economy. The lost production and money spent defending against these threats is placing a burden on companies. They should be applying stiffer penalties to deter people from engaging in these actions."

"It seems to me that at their young age a stiffer sentence would have been more useful. Generally, in the United Kingdom, sentencing is too soft and prison does not have proper means to rehabilitate. At least 18 months and one year respectively of prison accompanied by some physically hard but not detrimental labour would have been punishment and deterrent. Stimulating mental activity to direct obviously curious and intelligently creative brains to endeavours interesting to themselves and useful to society at large could well have turned them into useful citizens. One year to eighteen months is not a long time. But six and three months is ridiculous. It is just about long enough to turn these young and intelligent criminals into young and intelligent citizens. The harm that they have caused may have seriously affected someone's life and life chances. Harm that may well take much longer than a few months to put right. The further potentially devastating harm they could have caused must be prevented from coming to fruition."

"The real issue here is, this is no real deterrent. I suspect that although there have been sentenced to six and three months respectively, they will probably only serve a maximum of half the time allocated, so what sort of message does that send out? I understand that they are being made some sort of example of, however, a longer sentence would have been more appropriate, when you consider the potential problems that could have been caused together the subsequent devastating effects."


Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. The comments expressed on this page are those of a subsection of poll participants, and not necessarily those of Sophos. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated. Sophos reserves the right to edit participants' comments for the purposes of clarity, brevity and decency. Sophos reserves the right not to publish the comments of all participants.