A criminal sentence can be used for a three-fold purpose. It punishes an offender by placing them in prison for a period of time, it protects society by incarcerating a dangerous or violent offender and it sends a message to others who may commit similar crimes.
When it comes to federal cybercrime charges, the sentence may as much about the potential deterrent effect as either of the other two features. In the case of a Swedish national who was sentenced to 57 months in prison due to his work as co-creator of malware that was sold to and used by other hackers worldwide.
The malware, "Blackshades," allowed hackers who purchased it for $40 a download to control other individual's computers. The criminal enterprise allowed them to earn $350,000, and led to millions of infected computers.
The hackers could then control the computers to obtain the genuine users passwords and enabled identity theft. The software allowed hackers to spread the malware infection via messages to other computers. They could also demand ransom from owners by locking them out of their own computers. Some hackers used the computers camera to record females undressing.
The prosecutors asked for an even more severe 70-month sentence, and argued that this software was used to spread misery to thousands.
Given how central computers have become for most individuals, federal charges for cybercrimes are likely to become more severe. In addition, as the internet of things increases in size, including cars, trucks and airplanes, the potential for great damage to be done will likewise increase.
This will likely make cybercrime the next arena for Congress to declare "war" and create ever more draconian punishments.
Source: usatoday.com, "Blackshades + hacking = prison," Kevin McCoy, June 23, 2015