What Would Jesus Blog?

Trial by a jury of incompetents…

by on Aug.12, 2009, under Uncategorized

It occurred to me recently that most people have no idea what my job is. ‘Technical Support’ is a term that most people understand but, by nature, most people don’t really know what I do. After all, it’s technical stuff that I’ve spent a lifetime learning about and three years (and £15 grand!) on learning to a professional level. This isn’t generally a problem – I couldn’t teach a classroom full of 5-year-olds, and my mother couldn’t analyse security risks in PHP code. Each to their own.

The problem that comes to mind is that of what would happen if I were to be accused of a crime committed online. I’d come before a jury of my peers in a court of law – a system that in principle I believe to be generally effective at dispensing justice (but that’s a whole different question). If I were accused of murder, the jury would know what the crime consisted of – they could imagine me committing it, perhaps understand my motivation, and when provided with evidence that although technical in nature, could be presented in an understandable way.

But what if i were accused of circumventing the access control systems to confidential information held on government computers of several different nations by the use of ghosting proxies, the construction of a botnet and orchestrated dDOS attacks? That’s several different crimes in several different jurisdictions – the extradition proceedings alone would cause a political incident! What about if I were accused of being an accessory to the distribution of child pornography because I had failed to properly patch a server and an attack against the server had succeeded?

When I came to trial, the jury would have very little idea of how I went about my supposed crime – stabbing someone is somewhat universally recognised, writing viruses is a rather less glamorous past-time. In the latter case, I wouldn’t actually have done anything and still managed to commit a crime that would disgust any jury – how is any jury not fully versed in server management supposed to make a call on that?

Equally, what’s the alternative? Trial by a jury of IT experts? There’s vested interest there if I ever saw it – I don’t know what the answer is, but the prospects scare me.

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