Dutch Parliament Member Fined For Hacking; He Says He Was Just Exposing Security Flaw

from the ethical-hacking-or-not dept

A few folks sent over this story of Dutch Member of Parliament (MP) Henk Krol being fined about $1,000 for “hacking.” He claims that he was just exposing poor security on the part of a Dutch medical laboratory called “Diagnostics for You,” which he felt was especially important since there are stricter privacy rules for medical info. Of course, “hacking” is used loosely here: basically, a patient overheard an employee at Diagnostics for You reveal the system password while he was in the lobby, and that patient passed the password along to Krol. So, the “flaw” could be as simple as a stupid employee revealing their password out loud (though, you could argue that a system like that should require two-factor authentication or some other more advanced security than a simple password).

Either way, the court recognized that Krol’s intentions may have been in the right place, but faulted him for viewing and printing “more files than necessary” to make his point — and also for going to the press with his findings at around the same time he notified the laboratory. The court said simply finding the flaw and even downloading some records to prove it to the lab would have been fine, but that he went too far (even if he carefully redacted personal info). And then going to the press immediately when the problem seemed to be more a case of a bad employee revealing their password, just seemed like too much. As the court noted: “the problem was not so acute that immediate use of media was necessary.”

Of course, this kind of thing is often a struggle when it comes to security hacking. Different people have different opinions on whether or not it’s appropriate to go to the press, and also how much information to access. But it seems to be handled on a case by case basis, rather than with clear rules. There are some norms among security researchers — and that tends to include giving a company some period of time to fix things — but this remains an area of the law that is sometimes a bit fuzzy. You want companies to respond quickly to security flaws, and sometimes going to the press ensures getting a real response faster. But, it also seems less likely to cause significant damage if you contact them first.

Perhaps MP Krol can now try to pass some legislation with standards on how to handle security breaches found without having them turn into legal cases against the researchers.

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Comments on “Dutch Parliament Member Fined For Hacking; He Says He Was Just Exposing Security Flaw”

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Anonymous Coward says:

two points here

a) had this have happened in the USA, the poor sap would have had DoJ and others crawling up his arse with accusations of god knows what, then jailed for the rest of his life

b) i wonder what sort of attitude would have been taken there, had this have been an ordinary worker that did the same thing, resulting in what sort of punishment? a damn sight more severe than Henk Krol got, i’ll bet

c) i also wonder what sort of attitude will be taken against TPB member Svartholm, who has been accused of tax site ‘hacking’ (just to please the USA entertainment industries) based on supposedly trumped up charges. i doubt he wont get a $1,000 fine. more likely banged up for years for doing the opposite of what Hollywood demanded, with only bribery to aid them to carry out what they wanted because no jurisdiction existed. just as corrupted as the charges in the Mega case!!

Anonymous Coward says:

This…actually makes sense. He isn’t a security professional and snooped around as if he was, when he should have gone to the personnel in the company responsible for fixing the problem. Further, he also went to the media for no real reason. If the problem hadn’t been fixed, or they had gone after him when he reported it, then he should have gone to the media, but it was irresponsible behavior on his fault. A $1,000 fine is reasonable.

The problem is that the general public is not held to the same standard and are prosecuted for life imprisonment for reporting security breaches. If everyone else was held to this exact standard, there would be no issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

The security was a joke. You only needed a username and password to get access to very confidential information. In this case the system even allowed a user to use his username as password.

Do you think a company like that will take any action if somebody tells them that basically, their security is a joke?

The IT company even had the medical organization mobilize the ‘victims’ to testify against Krol. In some cases using pressure on their own patients that borders the unethical.

EJ (profile) says:

Needs a bit of context

Judging by the kneejerk comments this post need a bit of context. Dutch government and helath isurers have for years now tried to introduce mandatory electronic medical dossiers for all dutch citizens. The idea is that a health professional can always check a patient medical record even if he has never seen this patient before. The first attempt went nowhere because of privacy issues and fears over misuse of data by powerfull interest groups, particularly health insurers. Pariament rejected the proposed laws and that should have been the end of it. But, now governent departments in collusion with healt insurers are trying to introduce these electronic dossier again by making it into a “pseudo voluntary scheme” that will eventually force everybody to use this system.
The system that provides for acces to these electronic medical records is not a central database. It is a kind of central access control, where you are authorized by the central hub and then referred to the keeper of the record. You then connect to the hospital or provider that keeps the record and they will provide you with the requested information. Obviously there are numerous security issues with a system like this. And the health care providers generally have a bad reputation for security issues and for not fixing them. In this context this hack bij knol is just another example of the disastrous quality of IT security provided by the healt care industry. And another reason not to implement mandatory electronic patient records. basically, the hack was politically motivated, merely another move in a rather dirty fight over the the introduction of another “big brother” like system.

Anonymous Coward says:

What does going you the press have to do with it? It’s not as if he revealed a recipe for breaking in to the medical laboratory’s computer. It doesn’t even sound like there was any kind of systematic flaw that anyone could exploit — just sloppiness about a password, not the kind of thing you can count on even if it does shoe a certain laxness toward security.

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