Why Extradition of Hackers Is Important

Each day we hear about different forms of fraud and theft on the Internet.  Someone in America gets phished from a computer in the UK that is controlled by another computer in Switzerland, that is controlled by an individual in Italy, and their bank account emptied to a mule in America, and the money ends up with some gang in Russia.

Even if you found the individual in Italy you have to answer this question: where was the crime committed?  The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe addresses this very question, and fosters cooperation amongst  cooperating societies.  Extradition is so rare that it is worth pointing out when it happens.  On the 30th of July a UK Court refused to block extradition to someone who is accused of having caused many hundreds of thousands of dollars to US government systems.  While in this case the government was a victim, something that happens all too often, far more often it’s individuals who are harmed.  In this case the person sounds a bit disturbed. Let’s hope that next time they extradite people who do this sort of thing to make money, and demonstrate to them that it is not worth the risk.

Because the risk of getting caught is so small, this is an instant where the penalties should be very high when intent on theft, fraud, or disruption of services is clearly evident.

Time to Takedown: Successes and Failures

Takedown is a term used by Internet service providers and law enforcement officials that means the involuntary removal of a computer from the Internet.  For instance, if a computer has been compromised and is attacking other computers, a takedown is seemingly appropriate.  Tyler Moore and Richard Clayton have done some analysis on how long it takes to get a site off the net when it is doing something anti-social.  They look at about six different circumstances: phishing, defamation, child pornography, copyright violation, spam and bot sites, and generally fraudulent web sites.

Not surprisingly, firms such as banks that actively defend their brand are able to expunge hosts serving bogus content the fastest, and service providers are the most cooperative (the numbers cross jurisdictional boundaries).  Sites harboring material that exploit of children takes 10-100 times longer than banks.  That’s an enormous difference.  There are several likely reasons for this difference.  First, banks are acting in their clear best interest and do not mind shouting at whoever they need to shout at to get rid of material.  They’ve also likely developed strong relationships with service providers to speed the process.

The data on child protection is somewhat skewed by a single source, and that source had substantial jurisdictional issues, in as much as they did not feel empowered to deal directly with certain governments and service providers outside the UK, and in particular in the United States.  Worse, images that were removed had a tendency to re-appear on the very same web sites, indicating that either the site was re-compromised or it was poorly managed or both.

The data points to a clear need for stronger coordination by service providers throughout the world to protect children.  The fact that banks are able to be more successful in removing content that offends them demonstrates that it is possible when self-interest is a factor.

In the area of copyright violation, the RIAA has had success in removing sites that are clearly violating copyrights.  By injecting themselves into P2P networks the RIAA has been able to determine many sources of copyright violation.  The paper does not have a data source to analyze takedown periods.