At this point, its a rare person or company that has not been touchedmeaning annoyed or, even worse, crippledby one of the seemingly constant crop of computer viruses and worms that spring to life and garner huge media attention.

This may be fun and games for hackers who still hold on to a romantic view of themselves as solitary knights attacking the impregnable fortress headquartered in Redmond, Wash.

There are, however, indications that the thrill of worm creation has taken a darker turn and that criminal intent has become the prime motivator for such activities. Identity theft, selling stolen e-mail addresses and other forms of privacy invasion are, according to experts, becoming more widespread.

This presents a growing danger to citizens of all stripes who now conduct much of their business and communication online.

Whatever the motivation for the hacking or virus creation, it is time for the government to step in and start coming down really hard on these predators, to show others what their “sport” will cost them.

The threat to how we conduct business is not negligible and the authorities need to start making examples of those who engage in such illegal activities.

Back in the 19th Century when business on the frontier was conducted through general stores and other small shops, desperados who preyed on these businesses would be hunted down and thrown into jail.

That was how commerce was conducted then and that was how it was dealt with. While the means of doing business has changed dramatically, we in the cyberage have to deal with desperados who dont ride into town with guns blazing but who wreak havoc in more insidious and sneaky ways.

Nonetheless, the punishment for latter-day varmints such as these hackers should be the same as it was way back when. Make sufficient jail time the punishment for the crime. Only today, it should be part of the sentence that they have no access to the Internet during their incarceration.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 15, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.