Hackers must pay the price

Regarding James M. Fitz-Gerald's letter, 'Don't jail hackers' [GCN, Nov. 20, 2000, Page 20]: Sorry, but I beg to differ with the position that the juvenile delinquent who hacked NASA should be given a 'token of appreciation' as 'a vital member of this society.'

Hackers may be a fact of life, but so are muggers and carjackers; the presence of these vital members in our society does not obligate us to tolerate their actions.

Glorifying the little slugs only serves to give them the ego boost they crave and encourages others of their ilk to emulate them. New York City's oh-so-trendy designation of subway vandals as graffiti artists, complete with Daily News photo spreads, led to a quantum increase in spray-painted trains.

The mayor later decided that a vandal was indeed a vandal and asked the courts to impose sentences involving turpentine and scrub brushes upon those the cops nabbed. The incidence of freshly spritzed subway cars decreased, the Transit Authority's maintenance budget dropped to a more manageable level and the only photo-ops of the vandals-formerly-known-as-artists showed them in decidedly untrendy coveralls.

Most hacking is mischief rather than malice and should be treated as such; sending pranksters to Leavenworth is neither just nor cost-effective. Set up a LAN in juvenile hall, invite contractors to submit their firewalls and encryption software'for a fee'and let the little dears go at it.

If they succeed, the contractor gets a full report of the methodology. Its fee goes toward restitution and the hackers are on their way to becoming security consultants. If they fail, train them to write game software and sell the best results to Sony or Sega. The money from the sale goes toward restitution and the writers will have a budding career portfolio.

As for the hopeless cut-and-pasters, enroll them in the close-cover-before-striking school of computer repair. I agree that run-of-the-mill hackers, like those who pick your lock and enter your house but don't steal anything, should be encouraged 'to mature past the hacker stage' in a more structured environment, such as the military, assuming they aren't total couch potatoes.
But destructive hacking or cybertheft isn't picking a lock to use the bathroom. It's breaking in, stuffing the cat in the toilet, trashing the house and, as an afterthought, setting it on fire. This type of individual is a potential or actual sociopath and should be removed from circulation until security software evolves several e-centuries beyond whatever skills he possesses.

My apologies to Fitz-Gerald, but hackers are not 'part of the flora' of the economy. They are fauna, and some are quite predatory.

William S. Tuttle

Aviation safety officer

1st Battalion, 150th Aviation

Army National Guard Bureau

West Trenton, N.J.

Don't discount technical certifications for IT workers

As a newbie to the information technology profession, I understand the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. user's complaint voiced in the column 'Readers respond to best and worst lists with their own picks' [GCN, Nov. 20, 2000, Page 29]. I must, however, disagree with nominating technical certifications for the worst list. Truly, they should be on the best list, as the following points will show.

Work and life experiences have no substitutes. But this can be a major concern for those experienced in nonperformance or poor performance, or those so experienced they are slow to change when new skills are needed. Technical certifications provide a benchmark for employers needing workers adept to both new and existing technologies.

The M.D., Esq., CPA or whatever acronyms behind other professionals' names certainly do not guarantee they know what they are doing. The complexities of the human body, law and finance require long preparation for those qualifications, as deemed necessary by our economy.

IT users and professionals should respectfully see the importance of certifications since our industry is truly caught up in a market-driven revolution.

Yes, I agree that too often business imperatives outweigh thoughtful and methodical approaches to solutions. Yes, too many schools and training companies tout high-paying jobs to attract students into rigorous curricula. In the end, requiring certification is a win-win for employers and everyday wonks like myself.

We have a burgeoning technology industry with not enough interested or qualified individuals. The solution? To keep the industry growing, provide timely training to ensure levels of competency that are certifiable.

As a former college dropout'possessing certified network engineer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certifications'and PC enthusiast, I know the value of experience. Without my certs, my resume would not have gained attention for me to be hired and subsequently acquire my current experience as a LAN administrator for one of the world's largest computer networks.

Ras Ran Amon

LAN administrator

Postal Service, Washington Bulk Mail Center


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