Security

Poll: Is 25 years in prison too much, not enough, or just right for the TJX hacker?

U.S. Prosecutors will request a 25-year sentence for Albert Gonzalez--who pleaded guilty to stealing credit and debit card numbers. Is that too much?
Updated: U.S. District Judge Patti Saris sentenced Albert Gonzalez to 20 years in prison on Thursday. Gonzalez was also finned $25,000 (US), and will be required to pay restitution. A restitution amount was not set at sentencing, but according to Wired, it will likely be in the "tens of millions."

The AP reported Wednesday, that prosecutors will ask that Albert Gonzalez be sentenced to 25 years in prison for helping to "orchestrate on of the largest thefts of credit and debit card numbers in U.S. history."

Late last year, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to cases brought against him in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The 25-year sentence was the maximum amount under the terms of these plea agreements. According to the AP, Gonzalez's lawyer will request a sentence of no more than 15 years.

Need a little refresher on the cases against Gonzalez? Here's an excerpt from a September 2009 CNET News article on Gonzalez guilty plea in the TJX case:

"Albert Gonzalez, a former federal government informant and the alleged ringleader of one of the largest known identity theft cases in U.S. history, pleaded guilty as expected to 19 counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft related to theft of credit and debit card data from TJX Companies (owner of T.J. Maxx), BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, among other retailers.

Gonzalez, along with 10 others from the U.S., Eastern Europe, and China, were accused in August 2008 of breaking into retail credit card payment systems using wardriving (searching for unsecured wireless networks while driving by with a laptop), and installing sniffer programs to capture data."

More on the TJX breaches:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

81 comments
DHCDBD
DHCDBD

To much for getting into a company that did not secure its sensitive data, esp in when they had previously been listed on attrition.org

cressean
cressean

I'm not soo much concerned with the length of the sentence as I am concerned with the integrity of the law. What would his sentence be if the theft were by other non-violent means by a person with a different ethnic background?

CAH
CAH

I was going to say not NEARLY enough, then I realized it was Albert Gonzalez rather than Alberto Gonzalez...

Kent Lion
Kent Lion

Apples and oranges. If you intentionally wreck someone's car, what's reasonable; a jail term or requiring you to replace the car at the expense of your own labor? When an offender learns from the "punishment" what he/she did wrong and why it's wrong, it may be of value; but "punishment" as revenge just adds a burden to all of society (e.g., the cost of keeping the offender in prison). How do measure the value of the damage he caused against the value of putting him in prison for x years, when we can't even assign a value to our currency that has something to do with the effort required to produce the necessary (as opposed to luxury and worthless) goods and services that give that currency its only real value?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

You have to worder the length considering a murder can get out before this guy does.

akfaka
akfaka

My bank has informed me that my debit card has been compromised. I shop at Hannaford, a grocery store that was on the list of this creep. As far as I concern, he should be sent to China and be executed!!

stu.field
stu.field

They use to hang horse thieves and my money and credit rating are more important than mobilty. With our penal system, he won't serve no where near 25 years. They should've asked for life.

Excelmann
Excelmann

Only if he is in the same cell as the negligent TJX CEO, CIO, CISO, and net admins.

Oldmanmike
Oldmanmike

Put him in a refugee camp in Darfur, or something similar. Keep him outside the country in a situation like that for five years. He'd be required to work for room and board, and be doing something worthwhile, and not cost us anything other than a plane ticket. Now one item I haven't heard mentioned is the punishment for the TJX folks who had such a lousy security profile. Have they paid any penalties?

mhbowman
mhbowman

These people cause major expense to the companies, not to mention the expense, headaches to the victims that have to clean up their credit and good name. Further the argument that people shouldn't be punished because of the associated expense to tax payers is probably the STUPIDEST to come along in a long while. Give them an army tent inside a razor wire fence, and an ankle bracelet. Let them raise their own food, and take the rest to the local food bank to help the poor. Out of season put them to work cleaning up the highways, patching roads, erecting that fence along our southern border. Whatever it takes to get some use out of them, and make it the worst 25 years of their life so they NEVER want to go back.

tcobb
tcobb

How many lives were damaged that will never recover from this. What he did is along the same lines as revealing company or national defense secrets. It causes us all to be less secure. Let's send a message to the thieves of this world that it's going to cost you your freedom for a very long time. Longer than it's worth for the money you stole. It's time to stop slapping people on the wrist. Why should I have my freedom reduced by worrying about every transaction I make using the internet.

lgchristianson
lgchristianson

25 years sounds about right. Then, to put a virtual end to white collar crime, be sure to put them in prison with "Bubba" instead of the low security facilities. I guarantee that BS will STOP immediately!

misceng
misceng

I have always been of the opinion that the sentence should not be entirely based on the seriousness of the crime by whatever criteria that is judged. While very serious crimes need to be fully punished by jailing the criminal for a suitable period there is one item too often missed out in the judgement. The nature of the person who committed the crime and the possibility of reform. The judge with suitable advice should be setting the punishment which will do most to bring the criminal to a position that will benefit society as a whole. In extreme cases that could mean that a speeding offence should get a long sentence and a someone who has killed may need less combined with counselling and rehabilitation. The object of the courts should be to return the offender to society in a useful state.

harryolden
harryolden

25 years for a young person is a long time but for a older person it is not. When you get born it seems a longtime to get to 25 years old but when you are 35 years old 25 years seems to go fast that is why the court give smaller sentences to the younger person than to the older person

D0M1N8R
D0M1N8R

Take a step back and think how much time 25 years actually is. When he gets out it will only be to be imprisoned by a old body and likely into a world that will think twice before hiring him. Its way too much. 5-10 years would be appropriate. Even then that's a hell of a lot of time but at least he would have a chance to enjoy some of his remaining young life. You minus well execute him any longer then that.

Wgoh
Wgoh

How many people did his actions cause a $$$ loss? That number in years should be added to his sentence. He should be denied any computer access in prison, so he can't devise another scheme to defraud.

l7ightshade
l7ightshade

I think they could solve it a lot easier by putting him on probation and court order to never touch a computer for the rest of his life. current prison systems have enough REAL criminals to deal with like rapists and murders.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I wish there was some consistency. When murderers and rapists get less it disturbs me. Kinda like that TV evangelist yrs ago who got 17yrs. Yes what he did was dishonest, wrong and immoral, but.. again he got more than quite a number of violent criminals received, before and after. I don't mind seeing con men going to prison, I just think there should be balance.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The guy is no physical threat to anyone. There's no reason for him to get years of room, board, medical on the taxpayers' dime. There's no chance for him to make restitution. Slap a anklet on him, use the savings to pay a probation officer, bar him from computer use, give him a minimum wage job picking lettuce, and let him start paying back.

Falconeer
Falconeer

Maybe we should average the time deserved and let both of them enjoy the years together!

cary.ellis
cary.ellis

It isn't enough time - this guy screwed millions of people, and many of them will be working for years to fix their credit. With so many victims, this guy deserves more than 15 years. On the other hand, stating that the CIO and CEO should also be jailed or penalized simply doesnt make sense. Think of this on a smaller scale -- if a home is burglarized because a thief came through an open door or window, is the homeowner charged in the crime? I don't think anyone would say that they should be. Shame on the homeowner for leaving open access, but jail time? It is the job of the shareholders/board to hold the exectutives responsible, and the people whose cards were compromized can (and should) sue for damages. The legal system's job is to worry about the actual perpetrator of the theft, not the carelessness of the management.

terry
terry

Our system is one of punishment & retribution. To call it "Dept of Corrections" is a laugh. What is serious? Is it murder, rape or theft? Is it ruining the environment of a third world country by causing mud slides or depositing toxic wastes into the streams? Or, is it having many people die because of your work practices? Is the mining of asbestos in Australia worse than the manufacture of batteries or building Chernobyl type disasters? The only war criminals are those on the losing side and the largest group of convicted criminals are those who cannot employ teams of expensive lawyers to find loop holes. We have a long, long way to go & cutting things off whether it be hands or digits will only make it harder for those who do not have food to put the mud cakes into their mouths. In short, no! I do not have a definitive answer.

wbranch
wbranch

So now you want the judge to play psychologist and figure out if the defendant is truly just a good person who made a bad judgement or a serial offender? And what's this about putting speeders in for longer than murderers? I'd be far more worried about the recidivist rate of murderers than of speeders. This is just babbling, huggy-feely nonsense. Let's just hug the killer and find out if he just wasn't loved enough by mommy. If you commit an awful crime, and have full capcity to realize that murder is wrong (i.e. you're not a mental patient) then you should go away for a long time. I could care less if they'll be 'useful to society'. It's not like their victim will get to be useful to society anymore.

nu.urth
nu.urth

There should be other types of punishment than community work, jailing, and execution. One kind of punishment is cutting off one or more extremities. As for a thief, his/her dominant hand would be cut off on the first crime. The second time the second hand would be cut off. On the third time both arms would be cut off from the shoulders. It might sound inhuman but it does the job and it will be an excellent deterrent for other thieves. It is also the best cost efficient punishment on tax payers' money.

Realvdude
Realvdude

He forfeited his youth by trying to really enjoy it at the cost to other people.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

What the heck right do you think he has to "have a chance to enjoy some of his remaining young life"???? This person put hundreds, probably thousands, of private citizens through varying degrees of hell while they worked to put their identities back together again. I would not be surprised if some of them are not still working at it when you would let him back on the street.

jdclyde
jdclyde

but it should be four walls and his daily gruel only.

otaku_lord
otaku_lord

I agree! Why put him in Club Fed on our dime? Make him suffer by actually breaking a sweat doing menial labor. How about cleaning the grease traps at McDs or running a "honey sucker" (septic tank truck)?

Too-Tired Techie
Too-Tired Techie

damage and he should be put away. The physical threat is only further removed, pushed back a bit, not so obvious - what about the damage when 20,000 people find their identities stolen and their bank accounts empty? That's pretty life-threatening I'd say. Suddenly no bills can be paid, medical insurance premiums can't be paid, mortgage bill, foreclosure, out on the streets, mental stress and anxiety, hungry children. No physical threat to anyone? There's a special place in h*ll for these guys, and the computer botnet guys.

ron.marsteller
ron.marsteller

Do you really think someone with that level of intelligence would be around the US long picking lettuce? Maybe if they asked him to promise, you know cross my heart hope to die kind of promise he'd stick around. Yeah maybe if he said he was sorry....

bkfriesen
bkfriesen

With all due respect, you're perspective is seriously naive. You obviously haven't been a victim of identity theft. It will make your life pretty unpleasant for a (potentially) very long time. White collar or not, this guy cares about nothing but himself; his weapon of choice just happens to be a computer instead of a gun. The only deterrent IMO is an application of force; detain him for the max time allowed by law.

tweakerxp
tweakerxp

How would you propose to stop him from using a computer? Tell him NOT to do it again? That's like telling a pig it can't roll in the mud any more. It just isn't going to happen. Sorry.

ayaz.haniffa
ayaz.haniffa

I would use his knowledge to help companies and governments to better protect themselves. Make the guy work for free rest of his life for society and help protect our networks. Put an ankle bracelet and watch him like a hawk :)

wbranch
wbranch

I'm with you, except that even under this plan, he'd still be on the taxpayers dime. The guy does need to put some roof over his head, and some food in his belly, and under this plan how long do you think before he'd qualify for welfare? The real solution is to make jail less cushy (and thus less expensive). And definitely find a job for him during the day where he can contribute back to society for all the damage he's done. If you want to send him out picking lettuce during the day and then put him in a cell at night, I'm good with that.

QAonCall
QAonCall

You think probabtion will keep him off the web? Off computers? Cell phones? This is the same thing that prevents punishment from being a deterrent. Throw him under the jail, for about 100 years and tell everyone that is convicted after him will get sent the same place for +10% of the previous. make the punishment hurt, and some will be deterred.

jck
jck

Give him a job doing whatever, and give him $2 an hour out of the $7.50 and let the rest pay back the defrauded people and the cost to keep him. $5.50 an hour...12 hours a day...26 days a month...for 300 months...around $500,000 he'd be able to pay back... That's a start. lol

Realvdude
Realvdude

Your homeowner arguement doesn't hold up. The homeowner is responsible for their own reasonable security and may be penalized by a denied home insurance claim. A corporate entity collecting and storing financial information from it's customers has an obligation to provider reasonable security and should be penalized at the very least with the cost of the losses suffered by customers and the cost of monitoring and repairing their credit.

nu.urth
nu.urth

Imprisonment is not an effective deterrent. Very few people are afraid to go to prison. Specially with the existence of low-security prisons and parole. A person's life is the number of days that he/she lives on this earth and putting a person in jail robes that person of the most valuable commodity which is time. It is the most inhumane punishment to cut off a person from society and family. With a cut off hand a person can still function in society with a daily reminder to that person and people who interact with him about the severity of the committed crime. A culture that considers itself to have reached the pinnacle of achievement and closes the door to other cultures and ideas will stop evolving due to the restrictions placed by those achievements and the resulting arrogance.

SirWizard
SirWizard

In some "so-called" cultures, bloodthirsty barbarism is still the norm. But this was a crime committed and sentenced in the United States. Although my (US) President attempts to appease his Muslim apostasy by bowing down to the ruler of a savage country, my country's criminal justice system is not so steeped in centuries of butchery as to want literally to hack prisoners limb from limb.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

then keep it there. Might sound good on paper, however legal systems are *NEVER* 100% and it stands that an innocent man (because I know women don't count to you guys over there) could have body parts removed in a botched court case, which is for the same reason why I as well as many other people are against the death penalty. There's MANY cases after a person has been executed, they then were later found to be innocent. Keep the body dismemberment in your own country.

verd
verd

What are you about??....some sort of Muslum?? I suppose you think that other body parts should be cut off that represent their crime right? Like for a sex crime.. You're sick man

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I suspect for the $80K it will cost annually to lock him up that someone could find some form of e-banishment, but y'all push for long sentences if you prefer.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You think punishment will act as a deterrent? Only for those already inclined to be law abiding. It clearly had no deterrence in this case; why would it deter others? White collar criminals are ego-driven, convinced they're smarter than the authorities and CAN'T be caught. No, I don't think probation will keep him off the web. I do think someone with this high an e-profile can be kept off the web, at least to the extent he can do additional extensive damage. I think any additional damage he would do be less than the cost of incarcerating him for 25 years; use the savings for direct compensation. Cell phones? He can't get one without a credit card, and that ain't happening. He's not going to have enough money to even go pre-paid. He won't be able to afford a system of his own, or an account with an ISP. This leaves him with publicly available systems in libraries and the like. Those should already be locked down pretty well; if not, they've got bigger problems than this one guy.

it-support
it-support

There is more to consider than what was taken from the consumers. I don't know about other companies, but we were put on "full alert". All other product work was put on hold as we had to review every system to ensure we were locked down. While we had all ready gone through the hardening procedures as part of normal process, we still had to verify every box to ensure none had been missed. That was downtime for every IT person in our company. I can only imagine how many other companies were prompted to go into lockdown mode. While it is a good exercise to do, it is disruptive when it is not done in a planned way, but rather as a knee jerk reaction to an incident elsewhere. So while they can put a dollar cost on the perceived loss from stolen credit card info, there is really no way to tally the "real" cost as many companies do not report these kinds of efforts and the costs involved. We really need to come down on guys like these and the spammers, or there really is no deterrent. Can you imagine how much faster the Internet could be if we lost those billions upon billions of spam messages clogging it each day?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

he'd get in the prison laundry. I'm feeling generous; kick in a tent and sleeping bag. After 3 years of good behavior, he can apply for a Coleman stove. After 4 years, he can apply for the fuel for it.

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

"Very few people are afraid to go to prison." This statement is simply not true. Especially in countries like Saudi Arabia where torture in prison is all too common. "It is the most inhumane punishment to cut off a person from society and family." Either very people fear prison or it is the most inhumane punishment. You can't have both. "With a cut off hand a person can still function in society with a daily reminder to that person and people who interact with him about the severity of the committed crime." Steal a loaf of bread and loose a hand. Rape a woman/girl and marry her. Islam justice at its best. "A culture that considers itself to have reached the pinnacle of achievement and closes the door to other cultures and ideas will stop evolving due to the restrictions placed by those achievements and the resulting arrogance." Oh the irony, these words coming from someone that defends barbaric examples of a judicial system that claims divine perfection.

SirWizard
SirWizard

"Tis but a scratch" at getting the right movie. The fighting remains of the Black Night was in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

da philster
da philster

As much as criminals need to have the book thrown at them, this discussion is starting to sound like a scene out of Monty Python's "Life of Brian" where the combatant has had limbs chopped away to the point of being just a trunk and then proclaiming "let's call it a draw"

Bronte G
Bronte G

Don't just tell him to "keep it in his own country" Tell him that it is the sort of treatment which disqualifies him, and all who do it, from the human race, in his own country or anywhere else. We have not found a way to deal with any criminals. That is an area where all mankind has yet got a lot to learn. Punishment should be "reclamation", and we do not know how to do that, even though some people, especially a very few with religious ides, manage it. But many humans with bad habits can be reclimed, and become useful members of humanity. So we all have to keep trying to find new ways of doing that, whether it is computer crime or body-injury types of crime.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

He's from Saudi Arabia...tha's how they rollllll over there!

sar10538
sar10538

out after 7 years. Seems the US values money more than life.

The Maverick Phantom Wanderer (formerly Macoza, No
The Maverick Phantom Wanderer (formerly Macoza, No

"Cell phones? He can't get one without a credit card..." Not necessarily, as I purchased two without one- without a plan, but perfectly functional. "He won't be able to afford a system of his own, or an account with an ISP. This leaves him with publicly available systems in libraries and the like. Those should already be locked down pretty well; if not, they've got bigger problems than this one guy." 1. He could simply steal someone else's internet. 2. They (public systems- at least around where I live) do have bigger problems than that one guy. 3. If all else fails, he could potentially someone to help him.

marquis
marquis

Well, the cost of housing him for 25 years would indeed be a financial burden on my tax dollars. The dangers of letting him stay out, shackled, watched, "in a tent" or whatever would be dangerous, and probably, eventually as big a danger to the net and all that entails, as he was before he got caught. Trash like him is smart enough to be able to circumvent most any "surveillance" that is foisted on him. Eventually, after a couple of years of being a "rehabilitated citizen", his watchers would relax, and he would be back at it, or he would flee to Bumfuck Egypt and find more like-minded trash, and start all over again. My choice? Put him in a dark hole, lock the door and throw away the key. Oatmeal and lunc hmeat for the next 50 years is too good for him and his ilk.

1brogers
1brogers

You don't think this guy will be able to con a cell phone or internet account because he doesn't have a credit card? I think that's a bit naive. The cheapest solution is a bullet. Less than $1. The fact is, with the psychological makeup, ego and lack of morality of this guy, nothing is going to prevent him from re-offending.

Falconeer
Falconeer

And to imagine that we all are in some way providing impetuous help to the process.

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