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>I never once used it for evil: never read anyone's email, never viewed anyone's private files, never poked around the academic file shares for test solutions, never tried to steal credit card numbers or social security numbers from the finance office's file share.

I don't understand this justification. The system owners can't know that to be true and have to proceed as if the systems are compromised. Would you still feel safe if a burglar broke into your house and left a note saying they didn't take anything?






It's not a justification. What I did was wrong. I'm just telling you what I did and why I did it. I wasn't interested in hurting anyone or in gaining any advantage for myself, only in breaking the system.

Also, I didn't actually go in anyone's house. If passwords are really so inherently private even apart from their access implications, maybe we shouldn't be sharing Ken Thompson's old password.


Yes, a good defense against a charge of burglary would be not having stolen anything. In an imaginary perfect criminal justice system, charges/penalties are based on damage done. Less damage done is a lesser crime.

I was expelled for the same reason and here's what the school admins said about it. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/pomerado-news/sdpn-rbhs...

> In an imaginary perfect criminal justice system, charges/penalties are based on damage done.

Hell no. Otherwise you could just set up one gigantic crime by comitting a bunch of small "no damage done" crimes along the way-say, stealing a string of credentials one at a time, but not actually using them until you have all of them together and then you commit your major heist/crime.


Mens rea is an important consideration so it's not just about damage done (though the fear a key could be used in pursuit of a worse crime is also a harm) but the intent/recklessness of an act.

Well, the imaginary perfect criminal justice system would probably arrest you right as you had completely committed to causing the damage, instead of afterwards. But it should still be justifying the arrest based on the act that caused damage, not the harmless acts that set you up to be ready to do it.

Ah, like Minority Report

The crime in this hypothetical degrades from Burglary to Trespass, not "no crime."

A burglar might kill someone, book them on home invasion charges even if the house was empty.

Lesser punishment doesn't mean no punishment. Furthermore, you can always argue that the intent is to commit a major crime.

Isn't this more like duplicating everyones house key? He never actually went into the houses.

Except he went in the Admin's house:

> I'd just log in with the admin account and run pwdump


Just to be clear, in case this matters, it wasn't an account belonging to an administrator, it was a default superuser account called (if I remember right) "TECH" in all caps, and didn't have any files or anything in it. It's not like it was a person and I was poking around their private stuff.

Only if you can know he didn't actually go in. Even now, do you believe he never liked at a single private file?

What possible reason would I have to lie about it? You think I'm worried about investigators raiding my VPN service so they can track down and charge a grown-ass man in juvenile court for something that happened 15 years ago? You think I'm worried about my reputation on this throwaway account with a grand total of five previous comments? What's the point in believing that this whole escapade happened at all if you're going to randomly doubt a particular element of it?

I was a kid, I was stupid, but I wasn't an asshole. I didn't go peeking and violating people's privacy because that would have been a dick move. Just like tons of people on Hacker News today have access to personal data on SaaS systems we maintain and don't go peeking. Just like tons of people are perfectly capable of picking their neighbor's locks but don't walk into their house for no reason. It's not even tempting. I don't care what's in my neighbor's house, and I don't care what's in random other students' homework documents or email or whatever. The only interesting part was breaking the security.


If someone secretly stole my key and made a copy of it, I hope the court would send them to jail, regardless of why they made the copy.

No, it's generally not illegal to copy someones key. It's illegal to STEAL the key, of course, but copy? Not a crime. Some states have laws that prohibit "providing access" to a government facility which can be applied to copying government keys, but your house key? Nope.

SOURCE: am locksmith


> Would you still feel safe if a burglar broke into your house and left a note saying they didn't take anything?

That doesn't make it okay, but it certainly should result in a much lesser sentence than if the perpetrator had damaged or stolen property.


No. The serious crime is breaking in. Usually when someone's house is broken into they don't care about the stuff at all. They care that their personal space and sense of security has been violated. Also the criminal doesn't know what they'll find when they get in in but they are setting up a situation that can escalate quickly. Kids home alone? Someone with a shotgun? The very act of breaking in means they are ready to commit violence. If someone breaks into our house and sleeps there all weekend while we are on vacation, but doesn't take anything, does that deserve a lesser sentence than if they took a $100 TV? Not in my opinion.

"The very act of breaking in means they are ready to commit violence."

You really believe this? What makes you think you speak for people in general, or know the mind of the average burglar?

And how far does your equivalence view stretch, if someone trespasses and uses your pool is that the same as taking your outdoor furniture? Why not?


Well that's an opinion, but not how the law actually works, where misdemeanor/felony levels and minimum sentencing are based in dollar value stolen.

The purpose of the whole system is education. He used it exactly for that.

Just make it more secure so the next people can have a bigger challenge.


It was clearly an illusion of safety to begin with if they broke in. At that point you're at least informed, and it didn't cost you anything.

> Would you still feel safe if a burglar broke into your house and left a note saying they didn't take anything?

You might feel safe if he didn’t, but you wouldn’t actually be safe, would you?


Feelings are more important than reality!

See: NSA and mass surveillance



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