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[Daily News/Slashdot] European court clears way for hackers


European court clears way for hackers

By Christopher Jones

SAN FRANCISCO (Wired) - In a decision that sets a precedent in the realm
of hacking, the Norwegian supreme court ruled
last week that probing computer networks linked to the Internet is not

The University of Oslo charged a private security-software company,
Norman Data Defense Systems, with attempted break-ins
and disruptions on machines linked to its computer network. Norman Data
conducted the network probes in 1995 on behalf of
a Norwegian public news network, which was filming a program about the
Internet and wanted to demonstrate the inner
workings of open systems and the pitfalls therein.

``The essence of the ruling is that if you want to join the Internet,
you have to assure that you're protected,'' said Gunnel
Wullstein, president and CEO of Norman Data Security. ''If you don't
want to be visited, close your ports.''

The case also illustrates the fine line between hackers and crackers.
The former describes those who merely want to explore
computer systems, while the latter refers to intruders with malicious
intent. They exploit networks using specialized tools and
tricks of the trade, including unauthorized access operations.

[ ... ]

When an Oslo court first ruled in the case, it found the company guilty
of an attempted break-in on a computer network and
misuse of other people's machine resources, causing inconvenience. Both
charges carried a steep fine, and the company was
also ordered to pay for repairs to the university's network. After
Norman appealed the decision, a district court overturned the
more serious break-in charge, but upheld the misuse charge.

In Tuesday's supreme court decision, however, the engineer and the
company were cleared on both charges.

``This is very principal, the first time the supreme court has taken a
standpoint in a case like this,'' said Frode Pedersen, news
editor at Aftenposten, a daily newspaper in Oslo. ``The high court said
that if you have a service on the Internet not directly
protected, you have to stand for people searching for security holes.''


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