US Courts Think Hacking is Worse Than Rape and Murder

Matthew Keys faces 25 years in jail for merely defacing the LA Times website, but a rapist gets less

Former Reuters journalist, Matthew Keys was found guilty of defacing LA Times website on Wednesday and faces probable sentence of 25 years. This looks pretty unjust for merely defacing a website but that is the amount of sentence according to obsolete US laws which give a lighter sentence to a rapist.

Keys, a 28-year-old social-media journalist known for his work at Reuters, was convicted by a California federal jury on three criminal counts, stemming from the defacement of The Los Angeles Times’ website in 2010. The prosecutors were able to prove to the court that Keys helped the global hacktivist group, Anonymous in launching the hack attack.

According to the prosecutors, Keys provided the login credentials to Anonymous for facilitating the hack and also egged them to carry out the hack attack. Keys got hold of the login details from his time as a web producer for KTXL FOX40, a radio station which is owned by Tribune Company which also owns LA Times. The prosecutors said that Anonymous wouldnt have hacked LA Times if Keys had not supplied them with login credentials.

Key’s will be sentenced on 20th January, 2016 by US District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, who heard the case.

According to the United States laws, he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison—more than some murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals face. Under the United States Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) under which he was found guilty and includes conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer, and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer, the maximum sentence is 25 years.

It is highly unlikely the Keys may actually be sentenced to 25 years in prison. “We have no intention of seeking 25 years,” Lauren Horwood, the Public Information Officer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, told The Daily Beast. “The sentencing that we’re going to ask the judge for will be less than five years.”

The Law

According to the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse act which has been applied on Keys, the maximum sentencing of 25 years has been provided. The USSC sentencing guidelines relating to “certain computer fraud and abuse,” can be “determined without regard to any mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.”

Based on the actual facts, the LA Times hacking would have cost peanuts to its owners. LA Times has claimed that the Anonymous defacement of their site cost them $5,000, though it took about an hour and a few dozen keystrokes to correct the breach. Surprisingly $5000 is what CFAA laws stipulate to be tried under it.

A study made by the U.S. Department of Justice of prison releases in 1992, involving about 80 percent of the prison population, found that the average sentence for convicted rapists was 11.8 years, while the actual time served was 5.4 years.

May be it is time to relook into those big tomes of law.

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