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[ISN] Aussie court crackers on crackers


By John Leyden
Posted: 15/04/2003 

Lawyers and security firms have condemned a decision by an Australian
court to release without punishment a man who admitted to breaking
into ISP OptusNet's network.

Stephen Craig Dendtler, 22, of Bankstown, New South Wales, escaped
either a conviction or fine last week even though he admitted gaining
access to thousands of sensitive customer details through a back door
in OptusNet's network.

The software engineer's lawyer claimed that Dendtler's cracking
activities were nothing more than an "intellectual pursuit", The Age

Australian law firm Deacons said the court's decision gives a "green
light to hackers".

"The decision of a New South Wales court not to impose any punishment
on a defendant guilty of hacking could severely undermine efforts to
secure Australian cyberspace," says Leif Gamertsfelder, Head of
E-Security at Deacons.

"If courts fail to punish people guilty of serious computer crimes,
the wrong message will be sent to the community. The surprising
decision in this case is tantamount to giving a judicial green light
to hacking in Australia.

Gamertsfelder said the case was an example of the courts failing to
take cases involving computers or intangible property seriously.

"Courts wouldn't be lenient on offenders that physically broke into
telecommunication buildings or banks with intent to cause damage.  
Unfortunately, where intangible assets are concerned some courts
appear to take the view that they do not deserve the same level of
protection as physical assets.

"The case makes a mockery of the recent attempts of Australian
parliaments to bolster criminal laws in order to send strong general
deterrence messages to would be hackers," he added.

Paul Ducklin, head of technology for Asia Pacific at Sophos
Anti-Virus, also criticised the court's decision.

At minimum, judges should have recorded a conviction and imposed a
fine on Dendtler, according to Sophos.

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