Top UK Cop Says Hackers Should Be Punished Not With Prison, But With Jammed WiFi Connections
from the yeah,-that'll-work dept
Here's a story that starts out well. One of the UK's top police officers, Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, has said that putting people in prison for offenses like hacking into computers makes no sense. He points out that it costs around $50,000 a year to keep someone in a traditional prison, and that education programs are likely to be a far more cost-effective solution, especially in terms of reducing recidivism. This is absolutely right, and it's great to hear a senior officer admit it. Unfortunately, things go downhill from here. He told the Telegraph:
If you have got a 16-year-old who has hacked into your account and stolen your identity, this is a 21st century crime, so we ought to have a 21st century methodology to address it.
His solution is as follows:
He said convicted criminals could be fitted with electronic jammers around their wrists or ankles which blocked wifi signals and prevented them from going online.
Leaving aside the human rights implications, which to his credit Thomas acknowledges, there is another big problem with the proposal, as Techdirt readers have doubtless already spotted. The people wearing these WiFi jammers would be those who have been found guilty of some computer-related crime. By definition, then, they are likely to be tech-savvy. So they probably have other computers that can use Ethernet connections to access the Internet. In addition, they are unlikely to have any problems using Bluetooth or a USB cable to reverse-tether their mobiles to a system with wired access. The more adventurous might even try to rig up some kind of Faraday shielding to jam the jammer. In other words, this isn't going to work, but would probably cause havoc with everyone else's WiFi connections.
Back in 2015, Thomas was quoted by Computer Business Review on the topic of encryption, and the problems it posed for the police, when he said:
It is utterly essential for detectives and criminal investigators to use data held on smartphones and other devices when they are investigating serious crimes.
Given his belief that jamming bracelets would stop convicted computer criminals from using the Internet, the worry has to be that he shares the mistaken view that tech companies can create a safe system of crypto backdoors or "golden keys" that only the authorities can use. Let's hope he takes some expert advice before offering an opinion on that one.